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

[quoting Ecce Homo I can '/ ",all efforts, there's no trace o[struggle in my life, and I'm the opposite of heroic natures. My experience knows nothing at all about what it means to "will" a thing or work at it ambitiously or relate to  some goal or realization of  desire. -Ecce Homo]So that ordinarily, mystical statts are conditioned by a search for salvation. It appears that the  summits link  between a mystical  state and impover­ished existence. with fear and greed expressed as values of decline.  is in a sense superficial and very likely to be   deeply fallacious. This doesn't make it  any less what is the case. Solitary ascetics pursue an end whose means is ecstasy-and ascetics work for  their salvation like merchants buying and selling with  profit in mind or like  workers sweating for their  wages. If workers or merchants had wealth for the asking, without worries about a future. without fearing death or destruction. they'd leave their workplace or business without further  ado and  seek  out  whatever dangerous pleasures presented themselves. A5 for  ascetics: by falling into  common human misery, they become possessed by a possibility of undertaking the lengthy work of deliverance. Ascetic practices are human precisely insofar as  they  aren't much different from  surveying work. To be sure,  the  greatest difficulty in  the end  is  to  take  cognizance of  that limitation. Without the  bait of salvation (or  something like it), who  could  ever discover the  mystical way? People must have agreed among themselves (or among others), that this or that is advisable in view of this or that result, this  or that gain. Without these crude artifices they wouldn't have committed themselves to the behaviour that marks out  decline (the infinite sadness, the ridiculous seriousness required by  effort!). Isn't it  obvious? As  soon as  I  say-oh why give a damn about some future!-then and there I break into infinite laughter. At  the same moment, though, I've lost the  reason to make efforts.  (p.35)


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


On Nietzsche, Bataille Citations

Links to Reference



How to contribute.