Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Nietzsche's kisses



Nietzsche's Kisses: A Novel
by Lance Olsen

Paperback
2006. 244 pp.
Price: $15.95

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At once lyrical, comic, and deeply moving, Nietzsche’s Kisses is the story of Friedrich Nietzsche’s last mad night on earth. Locked in a small room on the top floor of a house in Weimar, the most radical and influential of nineteenth-century German philosophers hovers between dream and wakefulness, memory and hallucination, the first person, second, and third, past and present, reliving his brief love-affair with feminist Lou Salomé, his stormy association with Richard Wagner’s musical genius, and his conflicted relationship with Lisbeth, his rabidly anti-Semitic sister dedicated to assuring her brother’s legacy by distorting his philosophy into a cult attractive to the rising proto-Nazi movement. Here is an authoritative portrait of the Nietzsches we know and the Nietzsches we don’t—the one who killed off God, unmoored language from the things to which it refers, and invented the notions of the Overman and Eternal Recurrence, as well as the one evincing a fragile and hyper-sensitive intensity that contrasts eerily with the celebration of strength and the disparagement of consciousness in his own writings. His titanic ego, suppressed, squelched, and sealed up within him, all but unknown to his acquaintances, creates a maniacal and raging giant inside his own skull that is mysterious and unnerving, when it is not simply scary, sad, and haunting. Both stylistically and formally innovative, the prose in Nietzsche’s Kisses is surprising and rich. The result is a vivid, complex readerly experience of Nietzsche’s critifictional imagination, internal dividedness, and existential alienation. Yet, for all its technical and philosophical play, this book never relinquishes its profound empathy for what it means to be human during our final hours.


 

"It is a riveting and evocative portrait, but far more than that, it is an experience, an experience in which the reader is instantly thrust into Nietzsche's consciousness during his final hours on earth and they are hallucinatory, fantastical, tragic hours, hours not only achingly poignant, but terribly haunting. " —Nietzsche Circle



"Lance Olsen’s Nietzsche’s Kisses has a Dionysian soul that the great philosopher would have loved. More importantly, Olsen, and the novel, understand what Nietzsche meant about the scary business of looking into the abyss." —Percival Everett



"Nietzsche’s Kisses is a brilliant book and a book of brilliances, one of which follows the logic of the disintegration of a great mind with poetic grace, profound comedy, and a sense of tragic inevitability. With this novel Lance Olsen moves well beyond mere experimentalism to occupy a ground worthy of the magisterial and manic figure of Nietzsche himself. This is a deeply moving, compelling, intelligent, and utterly human account of the power of mind and the glory of post-history’s first and most vulnerable superman." —Michael Joyce


"This literary philosopher has haunted literature for a century, and Lance Olsen has decided to take a closer look at this ghost in Nietzsche's Kisses, respectful of his spirit, but only enough to bring him down to earth where one can have a better look at him...he also treats his subject with enough respect and imagination, and little enough self-consciousness, to let it speak for itself, mediated for sure, but never subordinated." —Electronic Book Review Review



"Nietzsche is a man of many sometimes conflicting seasons and in this fascinating and structurally complex work by Lance Olsen, Nietzsche is shown the last night of his life, locked in a room, hovering between dream and wakefulness, memory and hallucination, the first person, second, and third, past and present, deliriously recalling a fraction of his seasons of glory in his dribbling impotence as we tune into a short stream of time at the end of his life, a refreshing, enlightening, disturbing, but altogether welcome accompaniment to the lore of all things Nietzsche." —Mad Hatters' Review



"Nietzsche's Kisses is a brilliant achievement, a seamless, precise, marvelously affecting novel that must be read by everyone who appreciates the best of today's fiction."
American Book Review



"While it's impossible to know exactly what was whirling through Nietzsche's brain-body those last eleven years of his life, let alone those final hours, Olsen's fictional account casts a few bright rays of lightning upon those moments. When recalling his years as a professor it occurs to Nietzsche as he is standing before his students that "for some people consciousness is a dangerous tenement whose rooms they should never enter alone" (109); few actually enter the dangerous realms of their consciousness, certainly not its utter and extreme limits as did Nietzsche. Most need companions along the dark road, though they only skirt its edges, never enter its depths. The abyss Nietzsche gazed into gazed back into him and it is that labyrinthine abyss which Olsen opens up to us. It is truly a "resurrection of consciousness" and that seems to be Olsen's ultimate concern as we enter the dangerous, fascinating, fabalistic rooms of Nietzsche and his numerous selves, his masks only reflecting a plethora of other masks as he remains an indissoluble enigma, a Sphinx whose questions remain forever unanswered.
Come, join Nietzsche as he dies. Lance Olsen invites you . . . And so do Nietzsche, and Nietzsche, and Nietzsche . . . Let the Bardo begin."—Nietzsche Circle



"Olsen is a fine and daring writer, equal to the material."
Publishers Weekly


"Olsen is known for telling strange stories in unconventional ways, and in Nietzsche's Kisses he does not disappoint. With little warning, this book's rich, sometimes oblique, prose jumps from twisted first-person images of the sanitarium to third-person vignettes of various episodes from his life to second-person stream-of-conscious rants. The sum of this is both a fictive biography and a compelling rendition of what the last day of anyone's life might be like....a book that is as smart as it is engaging."—PopMatters



"Olsen...depicts this fallen übermensch with inventiveness and stark-raving prose."
Time Out New York


"Lance Olsen’s Nietzsche’s Kisses has a Dionysian soul that the great philosopher would have loved. More importantly, Olsen, and the novel, understand what Nietzsche meant about the scary business of looking into the abyss." —Percival Everett


"Kisses, tears, and laughter. Pride, embarrassment, and humiliation. Lance Olsen's beautiful novel gives us both the 'human, all too human' side of Nietzsche, and the dream of lightness and grace that was central to his philosophy, but that is too often forgotten or ignored by his disciples."—Steven Shaviro


 

Excerpt

You knock on Wagner’s door thirty-some-odd years before and it is just past eight and raining violently and you are under the impression you have been invited to a musical soirée but your father answers and from what you can tell he is alone. He is tall and slim and dressed in Wagner’s outlandish Dutch painter’s costume chocolate velvet jacket knee-breeches silk stockings buckled shoes Rembrandt beret blue cravat. Behind him the hall is empty lit by a single candle and he looks over your shoulder as if expecting someone more important to come up the walkway and so you look too but there is no one and you are wearing a shabby suit because it is the best you can afford. Your tongue is not your tongue and your teeth not your teeth you are borrowing them from a very sick man who barely hangs on to life in someone else’s imagination. You have come to meet Wagner who wants to make the acquaintance of the bright young philologist he heard so much about during a recent visit to Basel only you find yourself facing your father. Giving birth he tells you with great affection while looking over your shoulder is the production of proof concerning the parents’ inadequacies and then he turns his back on you and wanders down the silent empty hall and you hesitate before following. He leads you to an elegant drawing room slightly larger than a closet where there are no windows or perhaps they have been covered over with the satin wallpaper and it is very dark your stomach hurts a large stuffed-leather chair and miniature grand piano atop which rests another candle comprising the only furniture. It is so confined the air so heavy with Wagner’s patchouli perfume it is difficult to draw a breath and your father indicates the chair and you sit his back still to you and address him with a few words of respect telling him he looks extremely good for a dead man you miss him very much. You remember you say how he was liked and welcomed everywhere for his conversation and kindness and your father moves away and hunches down at the miniature piano knees up by his ears and speaks quickly cutting you off telling you if he had lived he would be the same age Wagner is now and please open your mouth. His back is to you and he bangs out several parts from the Meistersinger imitating each voice with great exuberance then stops sharply leaps off the bench opens it rummages inside comes up with a manuscript so fat it could never have fit in there except it has. It is Wagner’s autobiography. He sits again back to you and begins reading and every few sentences interrupts himself to tell you to please open your mouth. You tell him you miss him very much and the first five years of your life the years he was alive were your happiest and you ask does he recall that Saturday morning he said it is time to learn how to fish and took you on horseback into the countryside you sat in front of him in the saddle balancing his rod and tackle and everything was true the sun feeling like when you crouch directly in front of a fireplace on a winter’s night. No he does not. Your stomach hurts. He continues reading interrupting himself every few sentences and telling you to please open your mouth. He is not you realize before long reading about Wagner’s past but about Wagner’s future telling you how Wagner will in time come to exhibit the Christian pathology. Your father winces when he pronounces these words. Be careful he says they’re hot. After Parsifal Wagner’s work will bloat with hysterical women and its flesh drop off and it will turn sticky then histrionic then pretentious. He that humbleth himself your father says wants to be exalted. He winces and is on his feet again agitated the pages of the manuscript scattered across the floor as if a heavy wind has blown through the room and he is standing next to your chair his back still to you but he reaches out behind him and discovers your face and feels along its contours as if he were sightless. When he reaches your lips he strokes them with his forefinger and gently slips a digit between them and tells you to please open your mouth you hesitate he pushes a little you instinctively resist and then he is prying your jaws apart forcing his first three fingers between your upper and lower front teeth. You ask him to stop try to ask him but your mouth is full of him and he is touching each of your teeth as if every one were a beautiful pearl that could reverse time. He examines each with his fingers and you are progressively interested in his touch until he grips your left incisor with the strength of pliers and begins to unscrew it and you balk your hands shooting up to stop him but you are no match for his power the first tooth is already out the inside of your mouth bloody. His back is to you and your stomach hurts and he takes your tooth and raises it to his own mouth and you can see him huddle over it as he inserts it with a wet grinding sound like roots twisted in mud. He reaches behind him and begins to caress your lips again fingertips tickling and forces your jaws apart a second time his fingers eeling around inside your mouth searching for another tooth they choose an upper molar grasp it unscrew it then that one is in him too. He repeats this gesture twenty times and afterward turns around his mouth smeared with your blood your gums pocked with slimy holes and your father tells you to please open your mouth he has some difficulty articulating the words because of his new set of teeth he tells you to please open your mouth and when you do not he reaches out and runs a hand through your hair tenderly and then down the side of your face and when he reaches your lips pauses and three fingers are inside your mouth and you are having trouble taking air. He inserts three fingers inside your mouth and then four and then his whole fist and you are convinced your jaw muscles will tear your jawbone shatter you are gagging he is forcing his fist down your throat. He exerts steady insistent affectionate pressure and his pink-smeared lips are close to your right ear left arm braced against your chair for support. He exerts steady insistent affectionate pressure and his arm is up to the elbow inside you and the joint presents a temporary problem but your father braces himself against your chair and shoves with great vigor and then you feel his fingers wadding up your stomach sac from the inside and then his arm is slowly withdrawing and your stomach coming with it and your father is whispering what I have given you I have come to take back what is yours has always been mine and you listen with interest coming to appreciate this reclamation may take quite some time and so you attempt to settle into your chair make yourself comfortable trying and succeeding to love your father a little harder every second your consciousness remains intact.