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NEW YORK TIMES Editors' Choice
A groundbreaking new biography of philosophy’s greatest iconoclast
Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most enigmatic figures in philosophy, and his concepts—the Übermensch, the will to power, slave morality—have fundamentally reshaped our understanding of the human condition. But what do most people really know of Nietzsche—beyond the mustache, the scowl, and the lingering association with nihilism and fascism? Where do we place a thinker who was equally beloved by Albert Camus, Ayn Rand, Martin Buber, and Adolf Hitler?
Nietzsche wrote that all philosophy is autobiographical, and in this vividly compelling, myth-shattering biography, Sue Prideaux brings readers into the world of this brilliant, eccentric, and deeply troubled man, illuminating the events and people that shaped his life and work. From his placid, devoutly Christian upbringing—overshadowed by the mysterious death of his father—through his teaching career, lonely philosophizing on high mountains, and heart-breaking descent into madness, Prideaux documents Nietzsche’s intellectual and emotional life with a novelist’s insight and sensitivity.
She also produces unforgettable portraits of the people who were most important to him, including Richard and Cosima Wagner, Lou Salomé, the femme fatale who broke his heart; and his sister Elizabeth, a rabid German nationalist and anti-Semite who manipulated his texts and turned the Nietzsche archive into a destination for Nazi ideologues.
I Am Dynamite! is the essential biography for anyone seeking to understand history's most misunderstood philosopher.
About the Author
Sue Prideaux is a novelist and biographer. Her books include Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, which was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and Strindberg: A Life, which received the Duff Cooper Prize and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.
The Times Biography of the Year 2018
“An exemplary biography. . . . Nietzsche steps out of the mists of obfuscation and rumor, vividly evoked. . . . An attentive, scrupulous portrait.” —Parul Seghal, The New York Times
“This vibrant account of Friedrich Nietzsche’s life is a searching portrait of the philosopher and a keen assessment of his work. . . . Nietzsche often worried that he would be misread and misused; that he was, and still is, underlines the value of clear-eyed interpretations such as this.” —The New Yorker
"Prideaux’s biography is a strikingly original portrait of Nietzsche and beautifully written." —Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad
“Prideaux’s stylistic virtuosity and narrative talent has carved a much wider entry point to Nietzsche’s life and thought, setting a new standard for the genre.” —Maria Dimitrova, Bookforum
"This is what every biography should be like—engrossing, intelligent, moving, often downright funny, and filled with insights and sharply observed details from an extraordinary life. Simply a blast." —Sarah Bakewell, author of At the Existentialist Cafe
“The biography Friedrich Nietzsche has been crying out for since the day he lost his reason and embraced a horse in a Turin square in 1889. Prideaux brings a calm and steady light to bear on this most incandescent of philosopher-poets, with illuminating results.” —John Banville, The Guardian
“Splendid. . . . A beautifully written, and often intensely moving, account of a life devoted to the achievement of intellectual greatness and the exploration of the conditions for its flourishing.” —Jonathan Derbyshire, Financial Times
“An outstanding biography impressive in the depth and breadth of its knowledge.” —John Carey, The Sunday Times
“If ever there was to be a popular biography of Nietzsche, this is it. . . . Prideaux is a dogged, amiable guide and leaves you in no doubt whatsoever that her frail, footloose, ill-tempered subject was one of the most extraordinary people who ever lived” —Leo Robson, The Evening Standard
“This biography is nothing short of a revelation. . . . Here is Nietzsche as most of us have not encountered him before. . . . The great pleasure of Prideaux’s sprightly biography is watching philosophy in the making.” —Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian
“Masterful. . . . What sets Prideaux’s biography apart from previous accounts of Nietzsche’s life is its vibrant intimacy. Eschewing philosophical rigorousness for human proximity, Prideaux quite simply gets closer to Nietzsche than anyone before her.” —Morten Høi Jensen, The Los Angeles Review of Books
“An excellently researched and compulsively readable book. . . . Packed with insights. . . . This is not just a deeply enjoyable and enlightening book. It’s also an all-too-timely one.” —The Spectator
“Wide-ranging and sensitive. . . . An approachable biography of a usually forbidding man.” —The Economist
“Witty, terribly clever and steeped in the wild, doomed peculiarities of 19th-century Germania, I Am Dynamite! is a tremendous and reformative biography of a man whom popular history has perhaps done a disservice.” —Hugo Rifkind, The Times (London)
"A wonderful book about a truly remarkable man." —Nigel Warburton, author of Thinking from A to Z
“A wonderfully gripping new biography of Nietzsche—the type you stay in bed all Sunday just to finish.” —The Irish Times
“Beautiful and engaging. . . . Wonderfully readable. . . . The story of Nietzsche's life is by turns inspiring, poignant and dispiriting, and it has never been better told than in this riveting book.” —Ray Monk, The New Statesman
“I Am Dynamite is a wonderful insight into an almost impossible character. . . . Prideaux gives back the humanity to the all-too-human Nietzsche, and even manages to do so for his wicked sister.” —Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman
“I Am Dynamite! marks a natural progression from Prideaux’s previous two biographies of Munch and Strindberg. To those of us who value common sense, sound judgment, and quiet elegance, these three men are not exactly favorites—and nor is Wagner—but such reservations are blown away by the author’s formidable narrative powers, confirming her place among Britain’s top biographers.” —Henrik Bering, The New Criterion
“A handsome, well-paced, and readable new biography. . . . An engaging book. . . . Prideaux paints a vivid picture of Nietzsche.” —Jonathan Rée, Prospect