For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

On Nietzsche

by Bataille, Georges (1992)


A poetic, philosophical, and political account of Nietzsche’s importance to Bataille, and of Bataille’s experience in Nazi-occupied France.Georges Bataille wrote On Nietzsche in the final months of the Nazi occupation of France in order to cleanse the German philosopher of the “stain of Nazism.” More than merely a treatise on Nietzsche, the book is as much a work of ethics in which thought is put to the test of experience and experience pushed to its limits. At once personal and political, it was written as an act of war, its publication contingent upon the German retreat. The result is a poetic and philosophical—and occasionally harrowing—record of life during wartime.Following Inner Experience and Guilty, On Nietzsche is the third volume of Bataille’s Summa Atheologica. Haunted by the recognition that “existence cannot be at once autonomous and viable,” herein the author yearns for community from the depths of personal isolation and transforms Nietzsche’s will to power into his own will to chance.This new translation includes Memorandum, a selection of 280 passages from Nietzsche’s works edited and introduced by Bataille. Originally published separately, Bataille planned to include the text in future editions of On Nietzsche. This edition also features the full notes and annotations from the French edition of Bataille’s Oeuvres Complètes, as well as an incisive introductory essay by Stuart Kendall that situates the work historically, biographically, and philosophically.

Key Passage

If one day I broke apart.  dividing if not my whole life  from the masses. at least the important part of  it-if the masses are dissolved in endless immanence-it would only happen at the cost of depleted strength! In the period in which I write, transcending the masses is like spitting in the air: what you spit out  falls back on  you  ... Transcendence (noble existence. moral disdain an attitude of sublimity) has declined, becoming hypocrisy. It's  still  possible  to transcend states of apathy, but  only on condition of losing ourselves in immanence-and given that we fight for  others too. I would feel averse to transcendent impulses (categoric decisions) if I didn't immediately grasp them as cancelled in  a kind of  immanence. What is basic for me is to exist on the human level and to transcend only the decline. the plaster decorations of transcendence. If  I weren't myself on the level of  workers, my transcendence above the workers would amount  to a sticky gob of something at the end of my nose. That's how I feel at cafes, in public places ... I physically judge the people I mix with, and they can't be below or above a certain level. I'm deeply different from the workers. But  the feelings of immanence I have when  talking to  them, that is, when we're together in  our sympathies, are an  indicator of  my place in  the world-a  sign of  the wave in the midst of  ocean. The bourgeoisie,  mean­time, secretly jockeying with each other: apparently condemned to empty exteriority. On one hand. reduced to hypocrisy (the play-acting of pretending to be masters-lords of bygone days---connected with risking death, sword in hand), transcendence produces men whose vulgarity sheds light on  deep immanence.  Yet I picture the bourgeoisie as  destroyed in a few legitimate  bloodlettings.  Wouldn't the equality  of  those who were still there then, wouldn't that infinite immanence in its tum make  the monotonous reproduction of  the  workers  pointless, wouldn't it render useless a multitude without history or difference? (p.149)


Nietzsche, Bataille, German, Political Theory, War, Nazism, National Socialism, Wartime


On Nietzsche, Bataille Citations

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