Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Obscure, Uncertain, Wonderful

Do not let us forget that, when Hegel and Schelling were misleading the minds of Germany, Wagner was still young: that he guessed, or rather fully grasped, that the only thing which Germans take seriously is—“the idea,”—that is to say, something obscure, uncertain, wonderful; that among Germans lucidity is an objection, logic a refutation. Schopenhauer rigorously pointed out the dishonesty of Hegel's and Schelling's age,—rigorously, but also unjustly, for he himself, the pessimistic old counterfeiter, was in no way more “honest” than his more famous contemporaries. But let us leave morality out of the question, Hegel is a matter of taste.… And not only of German but of European taste!… A taste which Wagner understood!—which he felt equal to! which he has immortalised!—All he did was to apply it to music—he invented a style for himself, which might mean an “infinity of things,”—he was Hegel's heir.… Music as “Idea.”—

Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner (Ludovici, tr.), p. 31. I haven't checked the German or any other translation, but I'm pretty sure that 'wonderful' is not a compliment here. [UPDATE: Arsen notes in the comments that a closer translation would make it something like 'ominous'.]


  1. Arsen Darnay10:37 AM

    Nietzsche's actual word is ahnungsvoll. German has an equivalent to "wonderful," wunderbar. Ahnungsvoll translates as "ominous" or as "full of misgivings." The word derives from Ahn, thus from "ancestor." There is also a verb, zu ahnen, meaning most neutrally to have a presentiment of something, more pointedly to have a foreboding. Hence, of course, you're reading here is quite correct.

  2. branemrys10:46 AM

    Thanks! That makes a lot of sense.

  3. Chris9:50 AM

    Kaufmann translate it as "full of intimations." That makes the passage less lucid, for sure, so perhaps more German?

  4. branemrys4:03 PM

    That does indeed have a properly German obscurity.


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