Georg Brandes, fully Georg Morris Cohen Brandes

Georg
Brandes, fully Georg Morris Cohen Brandes
1842
1927

Danish Critic and+ Scholar

Author Quotes

For long ages, too, no notice whatever was taken of the criminal’s “sin”; he was regarded as harmful, not guilty, and looked upon as a piece of destiny; and the criminal on his side took his punishment as a piece of destiny which had overtaken him, and bore it with the same fatalism ... In general we may say that punishment tames the man, but does not make him “better.”

I was always hearing that I was pale and thin and small.

Nietzsche inveighs against every sort of historical optimism; but he energetically repudiates the ordinary pessimism, which is the result of degenerate or enfeebled instincts of decadence. He preaches with youthful enthusiasm the triumph of a tragic culture, introduced by an intrepid rising generation, in which the spirit of ancient Greece might be born again. He rejects the pessimism of Schopenhauer, for he already abhors all renunciation; but he seeks a pessimism of healthiness, one derived from strength, from exuberant power, and he believes he has found it in the Greeks.

The loathing of mankind is a force that surprises and overwhelms one, fed by hundreds of springs concealed his subconsciousness. One only detects its presence after having long entertained it unawares.

When does a state of culture prevail? When the men of a community are steadily working for the production of single great men. From this highest aim all the others follow. And what state is farthest removed from a state of culture? That in which men energetically and with united forces resist the appearance of great men, partly by preventing the cultivation of the soil required for the growth of genius, partly by obstinately opposing everything in the shape of genius that appears amongst them. Such a state is more remote from culture than that of sheer barbarism.

Forgetfulness, the unhistorical, is … the atmosphere, in which alone life can come into being. In order to understand it, let us imagine a youth who is seized with a passion for a woman, or a man who is swayed by a passion for his work. In both cases what lies behind them has ceased to exist and yet this state (the most unhistorical that can be imagined) is that in which every action, every great deed is conceived and accomplished.

I was at home then in the world of figures, but not in that of values.

Nietzsche proposes the following brilliant hypothesis: The bad conscience is the deep-seated morbid condition that declared itself in man under the stress of the most radical change he has ever experienced when he found himself imprisoned in perpetuity within a society which was in- violable. All the strong and savage instincts such as adventurousness, rashness, cunning, rapacity, lust of power, which till then had not only been honoured, but actually encouraged, were suddenly put down as dangerous, and by degrees branded as immoral and criminal. Creatures adapted to a roving life of war and adventure suddenly saw all their instincts classed as worthless, nay, as forbidden. An immense despondency, a dejection without parallel, then took possession of them. And all these instincts that were not allowed an outward vent, turned inwards on the man himself feelings of enmity, cruelty… violence, persecution, destruction and thus the bad conscience originated.

The masses are only to be regarded as one of three things: either as copies of great personalities, bad copies, clumsily produced in a poor material, or as foils to the great, or finally as their tools

When I was a little boy I did not, of course, trouble much about my appearance.

Goethe's life fascinated me for a time to such an extent that I found duplicates of the characters in the book everywhere.

I was not afraid of what I did not like. To overcome dislike of a thing often satisfied one's feeling of honor.

Nietzsche says that as soon as he had read a single page of Schopenhauer, he knew he would read every page of him and pay heed to every word, even to the errors he might find. Every intellectual aspirant will be able to name men whom he has read in this way.

The oldest definition [of “good”] was this: the noble, the mightier, higher-placed and high-minded held themselves and their actions to be good of the first rank in contradistinction to everything low and low-minded. Noble, in the sense of the class-consciousness of a higher caste, is the primary concept from which develops good in the sense of spiritually aristocratic. The lowly are designated as bad (not evil). Bad does not acquire its unqualified depreciatory meaning till much later. In the mouth of the people it is a laudatory word; the German word schlecht is identical with schlicht (cf. schlechtweg and schlechterdings).

Why you exist, says Nietzsche with Søren Kierkegaard, nobody in the world can tell you in advance; but since you do exist, try to give your existence a meaning by setting up for yourself as lofty and noble a goal as you can.

Greatness has nothing to do with results or with success.

I was not given to looking at life in a rosy light.

On entering life, then, young people meet with various collective opinions, more or less narrow-minded. The more the individual has it in him to become a real personality, the more he will resist following a herd. But even if an inner voice says to him; “Become thyself! Be thyself!” he hears its appeal with despondency. Has he a self? He does not know; he is not yet aware of it. He therefore looks about for a teacher, an educator, one who will teach him, not something foreign, but how to become his own individual self.

The person upon whom the schoolboys' attention centred was, of course, the Headmaster.

Young girls sometimes make use of the expression: “Reading books to read one’s self.” They prefer a book that resents some resemblance to their own circumstances and experiences. It is true that we can never understand except through ourselves. Yet, when we want to understand a book, it should not be our aim to discover ourselves in that book, but to grasp clearly the meaning which its author has sought to convey through the characters presented in it. We reach through the book to the soul that created it. And when we have learned as much as this of the author, we often wish to read more of his works. We suspect that there is some connection running through the different things he has written and by reading his works consecutively we arrive at a better understanding of him and them. Take, for instance, Henrik Ibsen’s tragedy, “Ghosts.” This earnest and profound play was at first almost unanimously denounced as an immoral publication. Ibsen’s next work, “An Enemy of the People,” describes, as is well known the ill-treatment received by a doctor in a little seaside town when he points out the fact that the baths for which the town is noted are contaminated. The town does not want such a report spread; it is not willing to incur the necessary expensive reparation, but elects instead to abuse the doctor, treating him as if he and not the water were the contaminating element. The play was an answer to the reception given to “Ghosts,” and when we perceive this fact we read it in a new light. We ought, then, preferably to read so as to comprehend the connection between and author’s books. We ought to read, too, so as to grasp the connection between an author’s own books and those of other writers who have influenced him, or on whom he himself exerts an influence. Pause a moment over “An Enemy of the People,” and recollect the stress laid in that play upon the majority who as the majority are almost always in the wrong, against the emancipated individual, in the right; recollect the concluding reply about that strength that comes from standing alone. If the reader, struck by the force and singularity of these thoughts, were to trace whether they had previously been enunciated in Scandinavian books, he would find them expressed with quite fundamental energy throughout the writings of Soren Kierkegaard, and he would discern a connection between Norwegian and Danish literature, and observe how an influence from one country was asserting itself in the other. Thus, by careful reading, we reach through a book to the man behind it, to the great intellectual cohesion in which he stands, and to the influence which he in his turn exerts.

A love for humanity came over me, and watered and fertilised the fields of my inner world which had been lying fallow, and this love of humanity vented itself in a vast compassion.

He maintains that culture shows itself above all else in a unity of artistic style running through every expression of a nation's life. On the other hand, the fact of having learnt much and knowing much is, as he points out, neither a necessary means to culture nor a sign of culture; it accords remarkably well with barbarism, that is to say, with want of style or a motley hotchpotch of styles.

In opposition to the aristocratic valuation (good = noble, beautiful, happy, favoured by the gods) the slave morality then is this: The wretched alone are the good; those who suffer and are heavy laden, the sick and the ugly, they are the only pious ones. On the other hand, you, ye noble and rich, are to all eternity the evil, the cruel, the insatiate, the ungodly, and after death the damned. Whereas noble morality was the manifestation of great self-esteem, a continual yea-saying, slave morality is a continual Nay, a Thou shall not, a negation. To the noble valuation good bad (bad = worthless) corresponds the antithesis of slave morality, good evil. And who are the evil in this morality of the oppressed? Precisely the same who in the other morality were the good.

On the whole, the world was friendly. It chiefly depended on whether one were good or not.

The reverence with which the boys, as youngsters, had looked up to the masters, disappeared with striking rapidity.

Author Picture
First Name
Georg
Last Name
Brandes, fully Georg Morris Cohen Brandes
Birth Date
1842
Death Date
1927
Bio

Danish Critic and+ Scholar