Misinterpretation as the Author's Responsibility
(Nietzsche's fascism, for instance)
I am terrified by the thought of the sort of
people who may one day invoke my authority.
—Nietzsche, letter to Elisabeth Nietzsche, 1884
If… the only politics calling itself Nietzschean turned
out to be a Nazi one, then this is necessarily
significant.… One can't falsify just anything.
—Derrida, The Ear of the Other
At first glance, it would seem incongruous, perhaps even unjust to impose the concepts of misinterpretation and responsibility on an author who spent much of his life and work at war with both of them. It seems to me necessary, however, to view Nietzsche through those concepts before judging the charges that link (more pointedly, inculpate) him with fascism, if only because his views on writing and interpretation directly affect the way we read (or mis-read) his politics (if, of course, he has any).1 Since, furthermore, Nietzsche himself created the genealogy as a genre of philosophical discourse, it is fitting on that ground as well to read genealogically what he himself wrote; that is, through the lineage—not the history, but the begetting—of his battle with the systematic concepts whose destruction he willed; that is, those concepts of which Nietzsche could well have said, in a gloss on the Greek, that it would have been better had they never been born.
I shall be moving back and forth, then, between several questions in the theory and practice of interpretation and the specific interpretive matter of Nietzsche's fascism. If, again, that's what it is. A framework for my inquiry emerges from a number of questions that are first asked and answered briefly and unequivocally (well, almost unequivocally)—