1 JONATHAN REE
Broadcaster and presenter
1 RALPH EICHBERG
1 LESLEY CHAMBERLAIN
Author of `Nietzsche in Turin'
1 RUDIGER SMIDT
Director of Nietzsche Study Centre
1 MICHAEL TANNER
Art critic and philosopher
1 PETER SLOTERDIJK
1 PAUL EDWARDS
1 GEOFF DYER
Writer and critic
NIETZSCHE'S WORDS: "I am one thing, my writings are another. Here before I speak of these writings themselves I shall touch on the question of their being understood or not understood. My time has not yet come. Some are born posthumously. Has anyone understood me?"
JONATHAN REE: That's the question that the 44 year-old Friedrich Nietzsche kept coming back to in the half-crazed autobiography he was writing in the last few weeks before the appalling day, 3 January 1889, when he rushed across the Piazza Carlo Alberto in Turin, threw his arms around the neck of a cab horse that was being beaten, and collapsed into a mental confusion from which he was never to recover. And even 100 years after his death very few people would claim to really understand Nietzsche, and it's very likely that they are wrong. But if Nietzsche has not been understood, he has most certainly been loved.
In some ways it's quite surprising that Nietzsche should inspire such affection, even protectiveness. He has a reputation as a philosophical monster. An immoralist, drunk with what he called joy and destruction. Destruction of trashy western philosophy with its transcendent ideals and eternal truths, and destruction of Christianity, with its feeble virtues of kindness, self-sacrifice and pity. But Nietzsche had little control over his reputation. He survived more than 11 passive years after his collapse while his life and works were being taken over by others.
In 1890 he was moved back to his mother's house in Naumberg, a sleepy medieval cathedral town not far from Leipzig in the eastern part of Germany. Franziska Nietzsche had always been proud of her brilliant son, but now she would have to devote her old age to nursing him, day and night for seven years until she died.
The house in Naumberg has recently been opened to the public, an eerily quiet place of pilgrimage which I visited with the German Nietzsche specialist Ralph Eichberg. He showed me the space at the back of the house where Franziska kept her delirious middle-aged son.
RALPH EICHBERG: The mother made this door to the veranda because she wanted to take Nietzsche outside when the sun shone; she didn't want to take Nietzsche to the street.
JR: What did the neighbours thinks of him?
RE: I think they were sorry for him.
A NEIGHBOUR'S WORDS: "His mother let him in. I wished him a happy birthday, told him he was 50 years old and gave him a bouquet of flowers. Of all this he understood nothing, only the flowers seemed to engage his attention for a moment, then they too lay unnoticed."
JR: There's a remarkable image here of Nietzsche's handwriting in 1892: it's almost illegible and looks rather like the writing of a four-year- old.
RE: Nietzsche's mother wrote letters to Nietzsche's friends because she wanted to show the friends that her son's health had improved - that's why she guided his hand with a pencil to write greetings.
JR: Franziska hoped it would do her son good to be brought back home to Naumberg, but as far as he was concerned his real home had always been in the windswept village of Rocken, 20 miles away, where he was born in 1844.
We've come into this charming little church in the village of Rocken where Nietzsche's father was a priest. Tell us something about this church.
RE: This is the Baptist church of Friedrich Nietzsche (Nietzsche's …