The Underground Spirit | The Martyrmade Podcast with Darryl Cooper (Part 1)

Check out The Martyrmade Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • “… an excellent novel can give us deep insight into ourselves precisely because we are not honest with ourselves, about ourselves,” – Darryl Cooper
  • Perusing a bookstore, Friedrich Nietzsche discovered a book with the intriguing title L’esprit souterrain, a book by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Nietzsche identified with the characters in Dostoevsky’s novels because they represent the existential dilemma typical of the 19th century
    • The Landlady novella has many parallels with Nietzsche’s relationship and eventual feud with Richard Wagner and Cosima Wagner
  • Meeting the notorious composer Richard Wagner was a very formative event in Nietzsche’s life
    • Nietzsche came into Wagner’s company because of his extraordinary academic accomplishments
    • He fell in love with Cosima Wagner
  • Nietzsche eventually grew uncomfortable with Wagner’s mindless nationalism and hostility
    • Wagner represented the more provincial, backward-looking ways, just like the character Ilia Murin in The Landlady
  • After he read L’esprit souterrain, Nietzsche started inquiring about Dostoevsky’s bibliography
    • He found many other Dostoevsky stories that feature love triangles
    • The protagonist is always the loser in the romantic relationship – as was Nietzsche himself

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Darryl Cooper (T: @martyrmade and IG: @martyrmade) is the creator and the host of The Martyrmade Podcast, and the co-host of The Unraveling podcast with Jocko Willink.
  • In this episode, Darryl Cooper examines the lives and work of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, two very important figures in the 19th-century existentialism movement, their commonalities, and differences
  • Host-Darryl Cooper (@martyrmade)

A Meeting With Destiny

  • People hide their true selves – fears, challenges, mistakes, secrets, etc.
    • Sometimes, we also hide things from ourselves because we fear confronting them
    • Identities and personalities are built to keep those secrets locked up and forgotten
    • If we try to subdue these secrets; they become more powerful
  • “… an excellent novel can give us deep insight into ourselves precisely because we are not honest with ourselves, about ourselves,” – Darryl Cooper
  • Perusing a bookstore, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche discovered a book with the intriguing title L’esprit souterrain (Underground spirit)
    • It was a book by Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, a French edition containing two novellas:
      • The Landlady, and Notes from Underground (one of the first existentialist novels)
  • Nietzsche soon discovered a myriad of similarities between himself and the Russian novelist, an event that would change his life forever

Nietzsche’s Long Lost Brother

  • Nietzsche identified with the characters in Dostoevski’s novels because they represent the existential dilemma typical of the 19th century
  • Apart from sharing a common worldview, they also shared many other similarities
    • They were both sensitive, frail children with health issues that persisted throughout their lives
    • Their families were conservative and had great expectations from them to become a certain way
    • Both of them lost their father when they were children
    • In their 20s, they had brief and very negative experiences in the military
    • They were recognized for their talent and introduced to elite society, followed by a decade of isolation
  • Dostoevsky was engaged with the same existential questions that haunted Nietzsche throughout his career
  • Zarathustra, the character in Nietzsche’s hugely influential book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is like the Underground Man – the protagonist in Notes from Underground
    • They both address humanity after a period of solitude and isolation
    • Zarathustra came from the mountain top, Underground Man came from a hole
    • They both speak about a radical free individual (Übermensch)
  • There were other, almost eerie similarities between Dostoevsky’s novels and Nietzsche’s private life:
    • The preface in Nietzsche’s book The Dawn of Day resembles the preface in the Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky
    • Scholars believed Nietzsche wrote the preface of the book after he read Dostoevsky, but that is not true
    • At the beginning of The Landlady novella, there is a sentence: “Ordynov had finally decided to change his apartment”
    • Nietzsche visited the bookstore while taking a break from looking for a new apartment
    • Reading the rest of the book, coincidences pile up

Friedrich Nietzsche – the Underground Man

  • The Underground Man is very similar to Nietzsche because of social isolation and lifelong illness
    • The Underground Man is a sick man, he proclaims, and like Nietzsche, he disregards the advice of modern medicine
  • “Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger,” stated Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols
    • The experience of pain is an introduction to a discussion about subjectivity and existence
  • In Chapter 2 of the novella, Underground Man ponders about people who take pride in their disease and pain
    • The entire book is like a dark mirror held up to Nietzsche’s life and ideas
  • Nietzsche was not aware of Dostoevsky’s work prior to discovering him in the bookstore on that fateful day

The Wagnerian Inner Circle

  • The Landlady novella is from an earlier period of Dostoevsky’s career
    • The plot has many parallels with Nietzsche’s relationship and eventual feud with Richard Wagner and Cosima Wagner
  • Meeting the notorious composer Richard Wagner was a very formative event in Nietzsche’s life
    • He met him when he was still a student in Leipzig in the late 1860s
    • Wagner was a very influential persona and an important cultural figure in Germany
    • His inner circle included Franz Liszt, Hungarian composer, and conductor Hans von Bülow
    • They treated Wagner like a deity; he was the god of the German intellectual milieu
  • It was a period of German unity, the age of nationalism; 4 years prior to the German unification
    • The spirit of all of this was in the air and on the streets
    • Wagner wanted to create a common Germanic culture for the new nation
    • Nietzsche came into Wagner’s company because of his extraordinary academic accomplishments (Youngest full professor in the history of the Swiss university system)
  • At the center of Wagner’s inner circle were Cosima, Wagner’s mistress and Hans von Bülow’s wife
    • Nietzsche eventually falls in love with Cosima and continues to spend time with both Cosima and Wagner

Friedrich Nietzsche and Vasily Ordynov

  • The protagonist in The Landlady, Ordynov, is a young reclusive scholar invited to a home of a couple- an old man, Ilia Murin, and his young wife, Katerina
    • Ordynov falls in love with Katerina, much like Nietzsche was infatuated with Cosima
    • Soon it becomes clear that Murin, like Wagner, has a tremendous influence on Katerina
    • Nietzsche fell in love with a married woman, who was intensely devoted to Wagner
    • Both Ordynov and Nitzsche walk into a strange situation and fall in love with a young woman enthralled by a very influential, older man
  • Nietzsche eventually grew uncomfortable with Wagner’s mindless nationalism and hostility
    • Wagner represented the more provincial, backward-looking ways, just like Murin did in the novella
    • And Cosima was too much under the influence of Wagner to run away with Nietzsche
  • Ordynov confesses his love for Katerina and tries to kill Murin to free Katerina but cannot do so because he is a weak man

Nietzsche’s Love Life

  • Every woman Nietzsche ever fell in love with was part of a romantic love triangle
  • After he read the Underground spirit, he started inquiring about Dostoevsky’s bibliography
    • He found many other Dostoevsky stories that feature romantic relationships involving three people
    • The protagonist is almost always the loser in the love triangle
  • This is not surprising, since Dostoevsky had his own painful experiences to draw upon
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Notes By Dario

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