On Nietzsche

By Georges Bataille
Translated by Stuart Kendall
Introduction by Stuart Kendall

Subjects: Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Literature, Memoir, Mysticism
Paperback : 9781438458588, 380 pages, July 2016
Hardcover : 9781438458595, 380 pages, December 2015

Table of contents

Translator’s Introduction: The Wanderer and His Shadow
On Nietzsche: The Will to Chance

Part One: Mr. Nietzsche

Part Two: Summit and Decline

Part Three: Diary (February–August 1944)

February–April 1944
The “Teacup,” “Zen,” and the Beloved

April–June 1944
The Position of Chance
June–July 1944
The Times
August 1944
I. Nietzsche and National Socialism
II. Nietzsche’s Inner Experience
III. Inner Experience and Zen
IV. Response to Jean-Paul Sartre
V. Nothingness, Transcendence, Immanence
VI. Surrealism and Transcendence
I. Essential Features
II. Morality
III. Politics
IV. Mystical States
Index of Names

A poetic, philosophical, and political account of Nietzsche’s importance to Bataille, and of Bataille’s experience in Nazi-occupied France.


Georges Bataille wrote On Nietzsche in the final months of the Nazi occupation of France in order to cleanse the German philosopher of the "stain of Nazism. " More than merely a treatise on Nietzsche, the book is as much a work of ethics in which thought is put to the test of experience and experience pushed to its limits. At once personal and political, it was written as an act of war, its publication contingent upon the German retreat. The result is a poetic and philosophical—and occasionally harrowing—record of life during wartime.

Following Inner Experience and Guilty, On Nietzsche is the third volume of Bataille's Summa Atheologica. Haunted by the recognition that "existence cannot be at once autonomous and viable," herein the author yearns for community from the depths of personal isolation and transforms Nietzsche's will to power into his own will to chance.

This new translation includes Memorandum, a selection of 280 passages from Nietzsche's works edited and introduced by Bataille. Originally published separately, Bataille planned to include the text in future editions of On Nietzsche. This edition also features the full notes and annotations from the French edition of Bataille's Oeuvres Complètes, as well as an incisive introductory essay by Stuart Kendall that situates the work historically, biographically, and philosophically.

Georges Bataille (1897–1962), a medievalist librarian by training, founded the College of Sociology and the secret society Acéphale. He was equally famous for his contributions to French literature, art criticism, anthropology, philosophy, and theology. Bane of theologians, existentialists, and surrealists during his lifetime, he became an essential reference for the poststructuralist generation of French intellectuals, including Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. Stuart Kendall is a writer, editor, and translator working at the intersections of modern and contemporary art and design, critical theory, poetics, and theology. Author of the critical biography Georges Bataille, he has also edited and translated five other books by Bataille, including Guilty and Inner Experience, both also published by SUNY Press.


"Stuart Kendall [is] the most prolific and arguably the most skillful translator Georges Bataille has in the English language … In particular, Kendall impressively demonstrates how precisely Bataille's expressions and syntax can be rendered in English without sounding stilted. " — French Studies

". ..a remarkable book on Nietzsche … There has been a huge amount written on Nietzsche since 1945, but Bataille's discussion remains indispensable … Kendall's edition is comprehensive and includes a good introduction and much that would be of use to the scholar of Bataille … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE