Mencken on Nietzsche
In honor of Friedrich's 163rd birthday (Monday), here's a classic Atlantic piece by one great American iconoclast about one great Polish one. Yes, Polish:
As for Nietzsche himself, the one firm faith of his life was his belief in his Polish origin. He cultivated a disorderly, truculent, and what he conceived to be Polish façade, wearing an enormous and bristling mustache. He wrote a book, which was privately printed, to prove that the true form of his name was Nietzschy, and that it was Polish and noble. It delighted him when the people at some obscure watering-place, deceived by his looks, nicknamed him 'The Polack.' The one unforgivable insult was to call him a German...
Do not mistake me here. I am not saying that the Germans adopted Nietzsche in any general and unanimous sense, as the Arabs, for example, adopted Mohammed, or as the Americans adopted the Declaration of Independence.
To the common people he was inevitably a dose of very bitter caviare: in so far as they were aware of him at all, they could scarcely understand him, and in so far as they could understand him, they were mocked and outraged by him. Nor was he more palatable to the elements which represented, in the new empire, the ideas carried over from the last and previous agesfor example, the adherents of the church and the survivors and mourners of the old aristocracy. For that church and that aristocracy he had only the fiercest of scorn. Against the one he was yet to launch _The Antichrist_, without question the most devastating attack ever made upon Christian morals in ancient or modern times. And at the aristocracy he had already flung the insult of ranking it second in his new order of castes, putting it with 'those whose eminence is chiefly muscular,' and dismissing it as fit only to 'execute the mandates of the first caste, relieving the latter of all that is coarse and menial in the work of ruling.' Nor were these the only groups which found little but effrontery and atheism in his new scheme of things. He was iconoclast even before he was prophet. His whole philosophy was a herculean treading upon toes.