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Chapter & Verse

Correspondence on not-so-famous lost words

March-April 2014

“the commonest form of stupidity” (January-February). Joseph Marcus responded: “1. I plugged the Nietzsche quotation into Google Scholar, which returns gazillions of citations. One occurs in Kenneth Hart Green’s Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides (chapter 4, note 2). Green cites the Marion Faber-Stephen Lehmann translation of Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, specifically the second supplement, ‘The Wanderer and His Shadow,’ aphorism 206: http://books.google.com/books?i d=exAg0DL6n3IC&pg=PA186&lpg=PA186&dq= to+forget+one’s+purpose+ is+the+commonest+form+of +stupidity&source=bl&ots= aYif_r_ZfX&sig=5YxHQORP7Excu4-s_ aAAxgeCq3I&hl=en&sa= X&ei=Ve7bUuj9NbOgsATRxoDACw &ved=0CEwQ6AEwBjgo#v=onepage& q=to%20forget%20one’s%20purpose%2 0is%20the%20commonest%20 form%20of%20stupidity &f=false.

2. Next, using Google Books, I located this translation (unfortunately there’s no internal search option): http://books.google.com/books? id=QhWsEiQFH_gC&dq =marion+faber+human,+all+too +human&hl=en&sa=X&ei =S_vbUsbtE-fJsQSHl4GgBQ &ved=0CDQQ6AEwAg.

3. You can also find this book as a 1994 Penguin Classic (again, there’s no ‘Look Inside ...’ feature) at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Human-All-Too- Paperback-Common/dp/ B00FFBG1BG/ref=sr_ 1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid= 1390145718&sr=1-3 &keywords=marion+faber+stephen. And as a 1996 Bison Books re-publication [ISBN-13: 978-0803283688]: http://www.amazon.com/ Human-All-Too-Spirits-Revised/ dp/0803283687.

4. Additional publishers have issued the translation in various editions. (Be careful with the format of your citation, though; some versions only credit Faber as the translator, with Lehmann as editor, etc.)

5. Finally, it’s interesting to compare other translations, which phrase the aphorism slightly differently—just one reason that it’s so difficult to unearth. For instance, R.J. Hollingdale’s version of Human, All Too Human (Cambridge University Press, 1996; ISBN 0-521567041) translates it on page 360 this way: ‘206. Forgetting our objectives. – During the journey we commonly forget its goal. Almost every profession is chosen and commenced as a means to an end but continued as an end in itself. Forgetting our objectives is the most frequent of all acts of stupidity.’ [My emphasis.]”

Separately, Kenneth Winston wrote: “I have in front of me the German text of Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Ein Buch fur freie Geister [Leipzig: Verlag von E. W. Fritzsch, 1886], Zweiter Band). On page 118, paragraph 206 ends with the sentence: Das Vergessen der Absichten ist die haufigste Dummheit, die gemacht wird. What’s curious is that the English translation in my possession does not include this paragraph. Indeed it renumbers the paragraphs, so that #206 is totally different. So, perhaps the German version went through different editions and the one used by translators does not include this paragraph.”

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