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The Birth of Tragedy/The Case of Wagner

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  2,436 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
The Birth of Tragedy (1872) was Nietzsche's first book. Its youthful faults were exposed by Nietzsche in the brilliant "Attempt at a Self-Criticism" which he added to the new edition of 1886. But the book, whatever its excesses, remains one of the most relevant statements on tragedy ever penned. It exploded the conception of Greek culture that was prevalent down through th ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published May 5th 2010 by Vintage (first published 1888)
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Dec 24, 2014 Forrest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You say “Tomayto”
I say “Tomahto”
You say “Potayto”
I say “Potahto”
Tomayto, Tomahto, Potayto, Potahto
Let’s call the whole thing off

You spell “Apollonian”
I spell “Apollinian”
You say “Dio-nice-ian”
I say “Dio-niss-ian”
Apollinian, Dionysian, Hegelian Dialectic
Let’s call the whole thing off

You say “Wagnerian”
Nietzsche says “Wankerian”
You say “Romantic”
Nietszche says “Pedantic”
Romantic, pedantic, Wagner was a wanker
Let’s call the whole thing off
Erik Graff
May 01, 2008 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: philosophy
Getting serious about understanding Nietzsche, I got down to what I thought was his first book, The Birth of Tragedy--not finding out until much later that, in fact, he wrote quite a bit before that, mostly in his academic field: classical philology. Happily, I got the Kaufmann translation pictured, the notes of which were quite helpful.
The Birth of Tragedy is filled with enthusiastic generalizations around the central dichotomy of the Apollonian versus the Dionysian in relationship, first, to
Cymru Roberts
Apr 02, 2014 Cymru Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greek-drama, essays
If you haven't read the extant Greek tragedians, it would be extremely surprising to me if you found The Birth of Tragedy anything other than incomprehensible. If you want a thorough understanding, you'd also have to have a decent command of Schopenhauer, Plato, and Goethe, just to name a few.

Personally, I've delved into the Greek playwrights as of late, so I came at this book from that angle -- to see what he had to say about Aeschylus for example -- rather than the point of view of reading an
Billy Roper
Nietzsche, before the STDs. He later self-criticized this book as a youthful naivete, but who among us haven't written something self-important as a youngster which we later saw as hyperbolic?
Nick Tramdack
Just three stars for this one. My interest in Nietzsche is mostly as a stylist. And although the ideas in this book are cool, the incredibly honed aphoristic style of the later works was not present in this, Nietzsche's first book. And he admitted as much.

Nevertheless here are some notes, keyed up to the Walter Kaufmann translation. Maybe by doing this I can create a kind of gloss on the text, a Birth of Tragedy broken down into discrete (fu fu fu... and easily used out of context) "MONEY QUOTES
Mar 03, 2017 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
What can one say? One of the towering minds at work. The earlier work is certainly more of a hike, but packed with so many fascinating insights!

The Wagner book is a lark, catty and vicious, and also packed with fascinating insights.
Jenni  Lunde
Jun 27, 2008 Jenni Lunde rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Philosophy or Wagner fans.
Recommended to Jenni by: I found it
I have a weakness for both these books, since "Birth of a Tragedy" is my favorite work of Nietzsche's, and "The Case of Wagner" helps me out. I'm the worst (unrepentant) kind of Wagnerite. But I *have* begun the 12-step program to rid myself of my addiction. It is as follows:

Step 1- I admitted I was powerless over my addiction - that my life had become unmanageable, and that Wagner was the greatest composer of all time.
Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to
Dec 30, 2013 R.a. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy

Well . . .

How can one not recommend what Kaufmann (the translator) describes as “one of the most important critical documents since Aristotle’s Poetics?” And, in my humble reading experience, I have to agree.

Simply, The Birth . . . represents some of the most profound and impressionable observations about art.

It is here, with Nietzsche, that the Apollonian-Dionysian opposites are posed. Additionally, the exploration of meaning behind these gods and “gods as concepts” is incisive.

I must agree ag
Nov 08, 2010 Zach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Nietzsche is so refreshing. He tears through the pretensions of Plato and joyfully mocks Socrates. He makes the best case for the necessity of tragedy since Aristotle. He is uniquely pessimistic and yet life affirming at the same time. Humans and artists and painfully aware of the terrible "truth of Silenus." Art and tragedy in particular are not only the highest justification of human existence, but furthermore, is absolutely necessary to human survival.

Nietszche's style is perfectly fi
Jun 20, 2011 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was inspired to read this by the discussions of it in THE ABSENT SEA by Carlos Franz. In the Franz novel, and pretty much everywhere else, the meaning of this book is boiled down to the conflict between Apollo and Dionysus. I disagree.

Apollo and Dionysus are actually intertwined and almost part of each other. The real conflict is between Dionysus and Socrates (via Euripides). Whereas Apollo actually allows a space for Dionysus to flourish, Socrates is a demon that destroys him. It makes me wan
Jan 20, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nietzsche
The Birth of Tragedy is deeper and more complex than its Apollinian v. Dionysian rep, The Case of Wagner now obscure in its trashing of a 19th Century composer (and the entirety of the late 19th Century he represented) -- though Nietzsche's points about Wagner's insidious decadence and jingoism are eerily prescient.
Eric Pecile
Mar 04, 2017 Eric Pecile rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally, one of Nietzsche's works that does not make one cringe. Essentially, this title highlights his critique of the scholarly profession as he understood in his time. The lack of syphilis at this stage in his life definitely shines through as his argument is presented in a somewhat coherent way.
Sep 18, 2010 Luke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times during my reading of "The Birth of Tragedy" I felt a great sense of the poverty of my modern public education. Apart from learning to read, and maybe some fundamental principles of math and reasoning, everything else I have forgotten or willingly discarded. What I would give, especially after reading a book like this, to replace those 12 years with a classical Greek education, and not just the rational wisdom of Socrates but also the earlier art, the epics of Homer and the tragedies of ...more
David Sachs
Apr 14, 2015 David Sachs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give this book 5 stars, even though it's flawed and I don't agree with much of it. But 5 stars for effort. Nobody, but nobody, writes like Nietzsche. When you read Nietzsche, you feel like you are wired in to a very high voltage, like you are holding plutonium. The writing crackles with intensity and intelligence. He says more in a sentence than many philosophers say in a book. The insights into art, modernity, classical Greece, Socrates, the Tragedians just flow on top of each other.
One of t
Feb 14, 2017 Hamish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the author's mistake was introducing the tragedy too early & in never actually revealing what was in Wagner's luggage.
May 14, 2013 Benjamin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This is an absolute rarity for me on two levels. Firstly, it's a book I didn't finish (I always finish books) and secondly because it was a Nietzsche book I didn't like.

I like Nietzsche. I should loathe him because he stands for a lot that I don't, but he's a valuable opponent, a bold adversary, and a damn witty, funny, engaging and utterly beautiful writer. I used to teach a Nietzsche module at the college where I work and I never got bored of the annual walk through "Beyond Good and Evil". Eve
Dec 28, 2016 SweetCuppinCakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's nice that this early and essential book of Nietzsche's is followed by a later and somewhat less serious essay in Kaufmann's volume. Though it may seem like a sea change in Nietzsche's attitude to Wagner, he is surprisingly consistent in his disdain for opera in contrast with pure art, and, particularly, with pure (Dionysian) music. While The Case of Wagner can be read for pure enjoyment's sake (it can read as a click-baity 'Nietzsche eviscerates Wagner' screed at times!) with or without any ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Marios rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Birth of Tragedy: Some great insights amid complex writting and thoughts. Prepare to spend quite some time on it, I guess it is a must read if you are really interested in ancient greek tragedy.

The Case of Wagner? Delightful! Especially for people who try, but can't get to like Wagner (me!)
An angry and sarcastic Nietzsche attacks Wagner's "sickness", focusing on his operatic themes and characters("a pathological gallery!") with the occasional misogyny, anti-christian and anti-populism touche
Aug 09, 2012 Pamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
The Birth of Tragedy is one of the prescribed readings for my philosophy unit on Nietzsche. After years of doing analytic philosophy, I was unprepared for the manner in which this philosophical text was written. It is probably a good idea to understand Nietzsche's philosophical themes first before deciphering it in this book. Otherwise, it is hard to see the point of what Nietzsche is trying to say.
Fred Kohn
Jul 06, 2015 Fred Kohn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't fully appreciate this book until I reread sections 1-6 and The Attempt at Self-Criticism after completing the whole of The Birth of Tragedy. Really, The Attempt at Self-Criticism is pretty incomprehensible until one has first read the book. It is also true that I don't get along with Walter Kaufmann's translations very well, although his notes are always excellent.
Apr 25, 2011 1.1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm glad I found this book: it really hit the spot, and it's inspired me to read more of Nietzche's stuff.

The Birth of Tragedy is a fantastic work, very insightful, well-written (well translated, too, I thought) and timeless. The Case of Wagner is tacked on as a bonus... take that as you will.

Oct 10, 2011 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read, especially when considering the rhapsodic, almost effervescent tone of early Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy with the acerbic sarcasm of The Case of Wagner, written almost twenty years later. A solid edition prepared by Kaufmann with helpful notes, although the translation is a bit wooden at times.
Mar 30, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nietzsche presents tragedy -- well, before Euripedes -- as a life-affirming celebration of humanity which transfigures man-into-god. It is the height of history, and represents humanity becoming what it cannot be. Inspiring and wonderful, it's my favorite Nietzsche text.
May 21, 2011 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reread on 5/30/11. Still seems like a brilliantly original, counterintuitive take on the Greeks. Some brilliant, inspiring writing in the middle of the book, as well as some overly fussy writing in other parts.
Jan 10, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: college
My undergrad thesis is based on this work by Nietzsche, specifically his concept of the Dionysian. This is Nietzsche's first work and clearly different than later stuff, but very much in tune with Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Passionate, first major work of Nietzsche. A little too sycophantic when it comes to his assessment of Wagner. But, the Apollonian/Dionysian aesthetic is thought-provoking, though not very flattering to "reason". See Ayn Rand's Return of the Primitive for an excellent critique of the A/D conflict.
May 09, 2007 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading some Greek tragedy and listening to Wagner, I have a new appreciation of these works. BT is really important and CW is really entertaining and Kaufmann's idea to put them together is great. Definitely recommended for people who, like me, are not Wagner fans.
The Birth of Tragedy is a very un-Nietzschean work, completely different from his later style. I missed aphorisms as I read this essay. Also, without a pretty thorough understanding of Greek literature, much of this book didn't make sense to me.
Barış Özgür
Nov 11, 2015 Barış Özgür rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
first time readers should put aside "the case of wagner" for a while in order to return at when they feel familiar to nietzsche's overall thinking. clear and fluent translation again, kaufmann knows his craft.
Apr 25, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It changed my life
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  • Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist
  • The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche
  • Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography
  • What Nietzsche Really Said
  • Basic Writings: Ten Key Essays, plus the Introduction to Being and Time
  • On Nietzsche
  • Introduction to the Philosophy of History with Selections from The Philosophy of Right
  • Nietzsche and Philosophy (European Perspectives)
  • On the Aesthetic Education of Man
  • Nietzsche - Life as Literature (Paper)
  • Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles/Eperons: Les Styles de Nietzsche
  • The Foucault Reader: An Introduction to Foucault's Thought
  • The Collected Dialogues
  • Philosophical Fragments
  • A Kierkegaard Anthology
  • The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts
  • The Ethics/Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect/Selected Letters
  • The Complete Works: The Revised Oxford Translation, Vol. 1
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900) is a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the ide ...more
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“In this sense the Dionysian man resembles Hamlet: both have once looked truly into the essence of things, they have gained knowledge, and nausea inhibits action; for their action could not change anything in the eternal nature of things; they feel it to be ridiculous or humiliating that they should be asked to set right a world that is out of joint. Knowledge kills action; action requires the veils of illusion: that is the doctrine of Hamlet, not that cheap wisdom of Jack the Dreamer who reflects too much and, as it were, from an excess of possibilities does not get around to action. Not reflection, no--true knowledge, an insight into the horrible truth, outweighs any motive for action, both in Hamlet and in the Dionysian man.

Now no comfort avails any more; longing transcends a world after death, even the gods; existence is negated along with its glittering reflection in the gods or in an immortal beyond. Conscious of the truth he has once seen, man now sees everywhere only the horror or absurdity of existence; now he understands what is symbolic in Ophelia's fate; now he understands the wisdom of the sylvan god, Silenus: he is nauseated.

Here, when the danger to his will is greatest, art approaches as a saving sorceress, expert at healing. She alone knows how to turn these nauseous thoughts about the horror or absurdity of existence into notions with which one can live: these are the sublime as the artistic taming of the horrible, and the comic as the artistic discharge of the nausea of absurdity. The satyr chorus of the dithyramb is the saving deed of Greek art; faced with the intermediary world of these Dionysian companions, the feelings described here exhausted themselves.”
“it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified.” 21 likes
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