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Review article Simulating the stars: Canadian literature and the legacy ofNietzsche DAVIDJ.DOOLEY In a special number of Encounter dealing with Germany, Erich Heller wrote some years ago that Nietzsche's hypothesis concerning the inverse relationship between military success and intellectual dominance had indeed proved true. The country defeated in arms has imposed its culture on its conquerors; defeated in two world wars, Germany has nevertheless invaded vast territories of the world's mind. Whether the modern world follows Heidegger in discovering its true habitation on the frontiers of Nothing, or Sartre and Camus in discovering the Absurd, whether it is nihilistically young and profitably angry in London or rebelliously debauched and buddhistic in San Francisco, Heller wrote, man spricht deutsch. And it is all part of a story told by Nietzsche. To all of the major poets, men of letters, and philosophers who have written in German or been influenced by German thought during the twentieth century, Nietzsche stands like St. Thomas Aquinas to Dante: the categorical interpreter of a world which they contemplate poetically or philosophically without ever radically upsetting its Nietzschean structure.1 The discovery which Nietzsche uses as a level to unhinge the whole fabric of traditional values is the knowledge that God is dead. Heller points to the paradox contained in these words: Nietzsche did not say that there was no God, but that the Eternal had been vanquished by Time. Consequently he saw the human race as existing on the mere pittance of inherited and decaying values. ''The waters of religion recede,'' he wrote, \"and leave behind morasses and shallow pools.... Where we live, soon nobody will be able to exist.\"2 No longer able to ask \"What is the meaning of our lives'' men will relapse into frustration; Journal ofCanadian Studies in their state of despondency and self-hatred, they will try to invent tools for the annihilation of human kind - ''There will be wars such as have never been waged on earth.\" So for Nietzsche the phenomenon of nihilism was an historical condition - the state of human beings and societies faced with a total eclipse of all values, and finally with a breakdown of all established categories of thought. But though he regretted the passing of Christian values, he hated their legacy, and at least during certain periods of his life he saw their overthrow as opening new horizons for men. In his view the Christian tradition had inculcated two main qualities: a love of truth, indeed an almost uncontrollable desire for absolute spiritual and intellectual certainty, and a suspicion that life on this earth is not a supreme value in itself but requires a transcendental justification. Christianity systematically devalued the knowably real, including of course bodily passions and instincts, and also aesthetic values. The death of God and the rejection of Christianity, therefore, provided outlets for instincts previously suppressed and in fact made possible the development of all aspects of human nature. So Nietzsche could write in Joyful Wisdom that ''the greatest event of recent times - that 'God is dead,' that belief in the Christian God has become unworthy of belief - already begins to cast its first shadows over Europe....At last the horizon lies free before us, even granted that it is not bright; at least the sea, our sea, lies open before us.''3 The decay of belief in God opens the way for the full development of man's creative energies. In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche pointed out that the Greeks knew perfectly well that life is terrible, inexplicable, and dangerous. But they did not succumb to pessimism because of this awareness; instead they transmuted the world and human life through the medium of art. At the time when he wrote The Birth of Tragedy, therefore, Nietzsche was sufficiently enraptured by classical Greece on the one hand and the music of Wagner on the other to believe in the power of art to transfigure life by creating lasting images of true beauty out of apparently meaningless chaos. 83 If Nietzscheanism has been nearly as influential as Heller maintains, it must have affected even Canadian writers; perhaps, in fact, it has been of special importance to them, because... 1e1e36bf2d