Applying the Four Levels of Reading to Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra in four parts between 1883 and 1885. A few years later, in 1889, he had a complete mental breakdown and spent the next decade as an invalid before succumbing to a final stroke in 1900. It would therefore be easy to toss the baby out with the bathwater and assume everything Nietzsche had written was nothing more than the ramblings of a madman. However, as many scholars before this have proven, hidden beneath the layers of parables and riddles in Thus Spoke Zarathustra there are deeper truths to be found. As Robert Pippin writes in his introduction to Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

“’Meaning’ in a poem or play or novel is not only hidden, and requires effort to find; our sense of the greatness of great literature is bound up with our sense that the credibility and authority of such works rests on how much and how complexly meaning is both profoundly and unavoidably hidden and enticingly intimated, promised; how difficult to discern, but ‘there,’ extractable in prosaic summaries only with great distortion.” (Zarathustra xv)

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Applying the Four Levels of Reading to Thus Spoke Zarathustra