“Let us proclaim it, as if among ourselves, in so low a tone that all the world fails to hear it and us! Above all, however, let us say it slowly…. This preface comes late, but not too late: what, after all, do five or six years matter? Such a book, and such a problem, are in no hurry; besides, we are friends of the lento, I and my book. I have not been a philologist in vain—perhaps I am one yet: a teacher of slow reading. I even come to write slowly. At present it is not only my habit, but even my taste—a perverted taste, maybe—to write nothing but what will drive to despair every one who is “in a hurry.” For philology is that venerable art which exacts from its followers one thing above all—to step to one side, to leave themselves spare moments, to grow silent, to become slow—the leisurely art of the goldsmith applied to language: an art which must carry out slow, fine work, and attains nothing if not lento. For this very reason philology is now more desirable than ever before; for this very reason it is the highest attraction and incitement in an age of “work”: that is to say, of haste, of unseemly and immoderate hurry-skurry, which is intent upon “getting things done” at once, even every book, whether old or new. Philology itself, perhaps, will not “get things done” so hurriedly: it teaches how to read well: i.e. slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with the mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes.”

—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day. (trans. John McFarland Kennedy)

3 thoughts on “Nietzsche: How to read well

    1. Nietzsche’s description is marvellous. Elsewhere he writes of those “worst readers . . .who behave like plundering troops; they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder and revile the whole.”

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I love the thought “friends of the lento, I and my book. I have not been a philologist in vain—perhaps I am one yet: a teacher of slow reading”. Nietzsche can cheer the spirit of the reader when he wants to.

    Liked by 2 people

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