Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Nietzsche on reading

It is not for nothing that I have been a philologist, perhaps I am a philologist still, that is to say, a teacher of slow reading....For philology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow — it is a goldsmith's art and connoisseurship of the word which has nothing but delicate, cautious work to do and achieves nothing if it does not achieve it lento. But for precisely this reason it is more necessary than ever today, by precisely this means does it entice and enchant us the most, in the midst of an age of 'work', that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to 'get everything done' at once, including every old or new book: — this art does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers.
-- from the preface to Daybreak (tr. Hollingdale) (via).

... Nietzsche's bête noire, Pascal, put it more pithily: "Reading too fast or too gently, you understand nothing." ("Trop doucement" -- could be "slowly," but one has "lentement" for that.) De Man used that as the epigraph for Allegories of Reading.


  1. Wasn't it Pascal who wrote "Sorry this such a long letter; I didn't have time to write a short one?"

  2. I think it was. Any brief-writer can sympathize.

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