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Nietzsche and Dostoevsky

On the Verge of Nihilism


Paolo Stellino

The first time that Nietzsche crossed the path of Dostoevsky was in the winter of 1886–87. While in Nice, Nietzsche discovered in a bookshop the volume L’esprit souterrain. Two years later, he defined Dostoevsky as the only psychologist from whom he had anything to learn. The second, metaphorical encounter between Nietzsche and Dostoevsky happened on the verge of nihilism. Nietzsche announced the death of God, whereas Dostoevsky warned against the danger of atheism.
This book describes the double encounter between Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. Following the chronological thread offered by Nietzsche’s correspondence, the author provides a detailed analysis of Nietzsche’s engagement with Dostoevsky from the very beginning of his discovery to the last days before his mental breakdown. The second part of this book aims to dismiss the wide-spread and stereotypical reading according to which Dostoevsky foretold and criticized in his major novels some of Nietzsche’s most dangerous and nihilistic theories. In order to reject such reading, the author focuses on the following moral dilemma: If God does not exist, is everything permitted?
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Note on Translations and Abbreviations


Nietzsche’s writings:

The English translations of Nietzsche’s works are from the Cambridge Edition. An exception is made for Duncan Large’s translation of Twilight of the Idols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) which seems to me to be more faithful to the original text. Nietzsche’s works are cited by abbreviation, chapter (when applicable) and section number.

Nietzsche’s late posthumous fragments have not yet been fully translated into English. Some of them are collected in the following works: Writings from the Late Notebooks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); The Will to Power (New York: Vintage Books, 1967). I have directly translated from German those posthumous fragments not included in the aforementioned works. The abbreviation PF refers to “Posthumous Fragments”. I specify the reference number of every posthumous fragment quoted (as in the KGW [=Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe] or KSA [=Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Studienausgabe] editions) and the estimated period of composition (Colli and Montinari’s chronology).

Nietzsche’s letters as well have been only partially translated into English. The following editions are available: Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1969); Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1921). I have directly translated from German those letters which are not included in the aforementioned works. In the KGB [=Briefwechsel, Kritische Gesamtausgabe] or KSB [=Sämtliche Briefe, Kritische Studienausgabe] editions, Nietzsche’s letters are always marked with a number. When I quote a letter, I use the symbol # plus the reference number...

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