I Am Dynamite! by Sue Prideaux

I Am Dynamite!

Sue Prideaux

Sue Prideaux brings readers into the world of Friedrich Nietzsche, illuminating the events and people that shaped his life and work.

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NEW YORK TIMES Editors' Choice

A groundbreaking new biography of philosophy’s greatest iconoclast

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most enigmatic figures in philosophy, and his concepts—the Übermensch, the will to power, slave morality—have fundamentally reshaped our understanding of the human condition. But what do most people really know of Nietzsche—beyond the mustache, the scowl, and the lingering association with nihilism and fascism? Where do we place a thinker who was equally beloved by Albert Camus, Ayn Rand, Martin Buber, and Adolf Hitler?

Nietzsche wrote that all philosophy is autobiographical, and in this vividly compelling, myth-shattering biography, Sue Prideaux brings readers into the world of this brilliant, eccentric, and deeply troubled man, illuminating the events and people that shaped his life and work. From his placid, devoutly Christian upbringing—overshadowed by the mysterious death of his father—through his teaching career, lonely philosophizing on high mountains, and heart-breaking descent into madness, Prideaux documents Nietzsche’s intellectual and emotional life with a novelist’s insight and sensitivity.
 
She also produces unforgettable portraits of the people who were most important to him, including Richard and Cosima Wagner, Lou Salomé, the femme fatale who broke his heart; and his sister Elizabeth, a rabid German nationalist and anti-Semite who manipulated his texts and turned the Nietzsche archive into a destination for Nazi ideologues.

I Am Dynamite!
 is the essential biography for anyone seeking to understand history's most misunderstood philosopher.


Advance Galley Reviews

I agree Prideaux painted an unforgettable portrait of Nietschze. I am Dynamite grabbed me and kept me reading with breaks in between to digest these concepts. I must say I only heard of the philosopher in name only but after reading this I am prepared to have a conversation about him. It is indeed a mesmerizing biography.

Apparently I'm just not that into Nietzsche... I was very curious to read this one - I was a philosophy major in college and found the Existentialists fascinating. It's very interesting theory and I thought this book would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, not so much. It's a little random and I had a tough time getting into it. He was indeed a "brilliant, eccentric, and deeply troubled man" but I found this presentation of his life a little too brilliant and eccentric for me. His journal entries pretty much lost me from the outset. I finally gave up and skimmed past them to see if I would fare better with the life narrative, but I did not. The book is clearly very thoroughly presented but I just couldn't find my way into this biography...

You don't need to be a Nietzschean to enjoy Sue Prideaux's, I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche. This biography of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche gives great insight into his life and his evolving concept of nihilism. This penetrating look into a very complex personality makes for a rewarding and enjoyable reading experience. Nietzsche's relationships with family, friends and followers make the book even more interesting giving a feel for the particular period in history. Thank you to First To Read for providing an advance copy of I Am Dynamite!

As someone who had only heard about Nietzsche this biography of him was very enlightening. Prideaux has done a good job of portraying the man and exploring his works. Her writing style makes the information on complex issues very readable. I had no idea that Nietzsche's father went mad at age 35 and that Nietzsche feared the same for himself. Nietzsche did go mad at age 44 and remained so until his death twelve years later. I was surprised by the vision he had at age twelve, making such an impression on him that he dedicated his life to God. Yet he greatly changed that view as he grew older. I had no idea about his relationship with Richard Wagner and the power music had on Nietzsche. I had no idea of his fragile health and failing eyesight, his short experience as a professor, the less than glowing reviews for his works, making references to his divinity as he slipped into madness. I recommend this well written biography to those interested in understanding more about the life and works of Nietzsche. I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

I AM DYNAMITE! is an intimate look at the life and death of one of history's most well known philosophers- Friedrich Nietzsche. One of my favorite aspects of reading is the fact that I can pick up a book knowing very little about a subject and finish with a whole new perspective and wealth of information. Nietzsche was one of those figures that I knew most of the basics (i.e. "God is dead"), but not nearly enough. He was incredibly complicated and Sue Prideaux's book gave a balanced and informative account of his life and death. The book opens with Nietzsche as a young boy and the early loss of his father. Nietzsche did not have the easiest childhood and struggled to connect with his peers. It was fascinating to see Nietzsche's transition from extremely religious with plans to serve the church to begin questioning God. He also developed relationships with a wide variety of significant cultural figures from Wagner to Lou Salome. Nietzsche meets and interacts with many different people throughout his life and they all impact his journey in different ways. He also develops some casual relationships with different women but none turn into anything permanent. I wonder how his life and legacy would have been altered if he had a wife and children to protect his beliefs and writing. Nietzsche had a lot of ideas that were not widely accepted for his time and it was sad to see how he struggled to connect with people until after his decent into madness and death. The final chapters were some of the most interesting to me. They were depressing and frightening, but Prideaux does a great job of attempting to dispel the syphilis rumors. Doctors were quick to assume that was the reason for Nietzsche's madness, so additional tests were never performed. The worst person in his life was his sister. Elisabeth did not care about protecting her brother's legacy. She only cared about money and making herself famous. Elisabeth twisted her brother's words, destroyed papers, and befriended Hitler and Mussolini. The beginning took me some time to get into as there were a lot of names and places I was unfamiliar with. Quickly, though, I found myself conducting research on every name that was mentioned and learned so much about the people in Nietzsche's world. I am especially interested in learning more about Lou Salome. I AM DYNAMITE! was an interesting and well-written biography of one of history's most controversial figures. I especially liked learning about some of the aphorisms that originated with Nietzsche like "That which does not kill us makes us stronger". Nietzsche's ideas were before his time and especially controversial because of his questioning of God and the church. I related to his joy of being by himself with nature and taking time to write and read quietly. This was a fascinating man and there is so much more to him that is worth reading about, particularly if you have only read the biased accounts put out by his sister and her followers.

Decided to not read it after all. I still don’t know why I requested it...

This was a very interesting biography on a man who I had heard of, but did not know that much about. The writer describes Nietzsche’s early upbringing, the death of his father with “softening of the brain”, his complex relationship with his mother and sister, Elizabeth, which carried on until his final breakdown, stroke, and death. His sister, who had strong Nazi beliefs, and who was a friend of Hitler’s was the curator and editor of the library of his work after his death which made it take an unintended slant immediately after his death but has since been corrected. Nietzche took inspiration from people such as Plato, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Richard Wagner. Prideaux wrote in great detail about Nietzsche almost obsession with Wagner, his music, and even his wife, Cosima. He spent much of his time with them at their villa Tribschen and was even there for the birth of their first child. He would send them his writings for review and would even compose music for them, although that was never well received. Prideaux does a good job of weaving his personal life, his philosophical thoughts, and even his periods of tormented mind. Another relationship that is featured in his life is that with Lou Salomé and Paul Ree.....and their time spent as the “unholy trinity”.....until they broke his heart. Sue Prideaux did a great job of researching and was very knowledgeable of his life, work, relationships, and philosophy, but being somewhat of a novice it seemed a little wordy and complicated in some parts.

I got through this book only by sheer stubbornness. Didn't care for it much at all

Sue Prideaux presents an fascinating biography on one of the most controversial philosophers of the 19th Century. Rather than focusing heavily on Nietzsche's philosophy she concentrates on his life and and friends, particularly composer Robert Wagner. She also ties Nietzsche's mental breakdown to his father's mental illness rather than syphilis. Nietzsche sister, Elizabeth, is also given an important role in the formation of his fallacious public image. It was her actions that lead to his identity as an anti-Semite and forerunner the Nazis. She also had control of his papers and copyrights after his death. Nietzsche's philosophy, when presented, plays into his life events and creates a connection between the person and the philosophy. Thus Spoke Zarathustra was mailed to the publisher the same day that Wagner's death was reported. Nietzsche saw this as the death of his "father" and the birth of his son. His personal experience with war seems to directly contradict the public's commonly believed definition of the Übermensch. Reality contradicts the common perception of the philosopher. Prideaux shows Nietzsche as a complex man in his thoughts but in many ways very human. Although his friends tended to be rich, he lived much more simply. Prideaux writes a balanced biography of one of the most maligned and misunderstood modern philosophers and corrects some serious wrongs that have no basis in fact. A very well done and cited biography that presents a true picture of the man.

Nietzsche is one of the most misunderstood philosophers, not least due to the heavy editorializing of his Nazi-sympathizing sister Elisabeth following his death. I studied Nietzsche extensively in graduate school and even wrote a thesis tangential to his life's work. I found this biography to be an informed, detailed and nuanced look at the life and times of a monumental figure of the 19th century. Author Sue Prideaux studies his association with Richard and Cosima Wagner extensively. She explains his trademark philosophical ideas (like Ubermensch, Will to Power, Dionysian/Apollonian, etc.) both intelligently and with the novice in mind. As such this is an excellent book for Nietzsche scholars and lay persons alike.

 


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