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This article is taken from PN Review 261, Volume 48 Number 1, September - October 2021.

Nietzsche’s style guide Iain Bamforth
Nietzsche scribbled down the ten instructions of his ‘style guide’ for the twenty-one-year-old Lou Salomé during what proved to be the high point of their relationship, an idyllic three weeks spent together (although Nietzsche’s disobligingly jealous sister Elisabeth was, as it were, lurking in the undergrowth) in the Thuringian village of Tautenburg, about twenty-five kilometres east of Weimar, in August 1882.

Every morning Nietzsche would knock on Lou’s door at the vicarage (he was staying in the farmer’s house) and they would set off on a long walk together; on one of these mornings ‘F.N.’ brought a sheet of paper with him. Before she had come to Tautenburg, Lou had been working on a series of 190 aphorisms (‘Stibber Nestbuch’): Nietzsche numbered the best of them, corrected or tightened a score, and put marginalia next to others. Her ‘Sometimes the size of our conscience stands in inverse ratio to the size of our brain’, for instance, was sharpened to the chiasmatic: ‘Big conscience, small brain: often the case.’ Angela Livingstone comments on the ‘peculiar pathos’ of Lou’s literary style in her autobiography: ‘it is somehow swollen, it is naively sententious, and it is unnecessarily secretive.’ Lou had no reservations about accepting Nietzsche’s textual advice (she ‘could learn to write in a day’, he told her), but was uncertain about the exact nature of their relationship. Still implicated in the famous platonic love triangle with Nietzsche’s younger colleague Paul Rée, she wrote to Rée that people who saw them on their walks took them for ...

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