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

I can't deny the inevitability of decline. The summit itself indicates it. U the summit isn't death, the  necessity of descent follows thereafter. Essentially, the summit is where life is  pushed to  an impossible limit. I reach it,  in  the faint way that I do, only by recklessly expending my  strength. I won't again possess a strength to waste unless, through work, I can gain back the strength lost. What am I moreover? Inscribed in  a human context, I can't dispossess myself of my will to  act. The  possibility of  giving up work  forever and in some way pushing myself definitively to some goal which in the long run is  illusory: This isn't conceivable. Let's even suppose (in an ideal way) that I'm considering the Caesarean option of suicide. This albeit attractive possibility arises for me  as an  endeavour causing me to place concerns for the future over those for the present. But I can't give up  the summit! I protest (intending to  put lucid, dispassionate ardor into such protests) against anything that asks of us  that we stifle  desire. Though I can only contentedly resign myself to  the  fate compelling me  to  work:  I'd never dream of doing away with moral rules,  since they spring from inevitable decline. We are always declining, and ruinous desire returns again only as strength  is restored. Because powerlessness in  us  requires recognition,. and because we don't have unlimited  strength. why  not acknowledge such a necessity, giving in to it even as we deny it? We're no match for the empty sky  that infinitely assaults and annihilates  us down to  the last human being can only morosely say, of the necessity to which I submit, that it humanizes me  by  giving me  undeniable dominion over things. I have the option. however, of not regarding it as a sign  of weakness.  (p.39)


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


On Nietzsche, Bataille Citations

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