Mention the name of Friedrich Nietzsche almost anywhere and you are apt to receive a strong emotional response, either negatively or positively. Few persons will say they have no opinion. And for good reason. Employing some of the most withering attacks and scathing criticism conceivable against, among other things, Christianity, education, government, Wagner, and the judicial systems of his day, Nietzsche was a one-man wrecking ball of European society in the latter half of the 19th century.
In this fine and clearly written combination of biography and analysis, famed Baltimore writer H. L. Mencken manages to distill the life and philosophy of Nietzsche so that any layman can become acquainted with this odd German philosopher. And odd he most certainly was. Born into a family of Polish extraction, Nietzsche was never completely comfortable in the smug, religiously conservative bourgeoise German society he grew up in. Rebellion quickly followed manhood. Brilliant from the outset, Nietzsche soon made his mark with "Human, all too Human". He never looked back. First published in 1908, Mencken's critical work has been a valuable reference to the life and work of Nietzsche ever since. Many persons will find the demeaning references to women and minorities reprehensible, as they are. But it is important to keep in mind that Mencken's attitudes were typical for most Americans of his day. But the patient listener will, in the end, be rewarded by a much fuller and more rounded understanding of a philosopher some still consider to have been insane.