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I Am Dynamite!

A Life of Nietzsche
Narrated by: Nicholas Guy Smith
Length: 17 hrs and 19 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (110 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Editors' Choice

A groundbreaking new biography of philosophy’s greatest iconoclast.

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most enigmatic figures in philosophy, and his concepts - the Übermensch, the will to power, slave morality - have fundamentally reshaped our understanding of the human condition. But what do most people really know of Nietzsche - beyond the mustache, the scowl, and the lingering association with nihilism and fascism? Where do we place a thinker who was equally beloved by Albert Camus, Ayn Rand, Martin Buber, and Adolf Hitler?

Nietzsche wrote that all philosophy is autobiographical, and in this vividly compelling, myth-shattering biography, Sue Prideaux brings listeners into the world of this brilliant, eccentric, and deeply troubled man, illuminating the events and people that shaped his life and work. From his placid, devoutly Christian upbringing - overshadowed by the mysterious death of his father - through his teaching career, lonely philosophizing on high mountains, and heart-breaking descent into madness, Prideaux documents Nietzsche’s intellectual and emotional life with a novelist’s insight and sensitivity.

She also produces unforgettable portraits of the people who were most important to him, including Richard and Cosima Wagner; Lou Salomé, the femme fatale who broke his heart; and his sister, Elizabeth, a rabid German nationalist and anti-Semite who manipulated his texts and turned the Nietzsche archive into a destination for Nazi ideologues.  

I Am Dynamite! is the essential biography for anyone seeking to understand history's most misunderstood philosopher.

©2018 Sue Prideaux (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

  • The Times Biography of the Year 2018 

“An exemplary biography.... Nietzsche steps out of the mists of obfuscation and rumor, vividly evoked.... An attentive, scrupulous portrait.” (Parul Seghal, The New York Times)  

“This vibrant account of Friedrich Nietzsche’s life is a searching portrait of the philosopher and a keen assessment of his work.... Nietzsche often worried that he would be misread and misused; that he was, and still is, underlines the value of clear-eyed interpretations such as this.” (The New Yorker)  

"Prideaux’s biography is a strikingly original portrait of Nietzsche and beautifully written." (Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad)  

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Fascinating; tragic

I've read everything on Nietzsche by Kaufmann in addition to Ronald Hayward's (quite good) biography. And still, there is so much here I did not know. This book has been riveting from beginning to end. Nietzsche lived a truly tragic life, as instructive and interesting as Socrates's. I only wish Sue Prideaux's other biographies on Munch and Strindberg were available on Audible (and narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith, who is excellent); I would snap them up in a second. I am already a Nietzsche-completist; I have a feeling I will be a Prideaux-one, too, soon.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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What a dynamite book!

I rather enjoyed this book. I would have thought I knew Nietzsche and I would have been wrong. This sometimes too human portrayal of the icon is something no fan of the Man can go through life not having read. The author demonstrates a seamless transitioning of the texts and timelines and characters with prose so naturally Nietzschean you may forget it isn’t an autobiography now and again. Be prepared for a view into the personal and private life of a legend- and steel yourself against turning away in pity at the sight of the man himself.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 01-06-19

Gives the bait, it's time to take a nibble

I’m glad I broke my rule against biographies and read this book. I needed a context and continuity for properly understanding Nietzsche, and this biography gave it to me. I generally don’t like biographies because as Nietzsche said about thought since Socrates it’s just a collection of facts, or in my words like stamp collecting, and biographies often miss the cohesion by dwelling on the facts or describing a person’s life as if they were stamps in a collection isolated from the real world. This biography provided the necessary cohesion and gives the reader enough of a taste for why Nietzsche's thoughts are relevant today.

This biographer broke from a collection of facts by linking Nietzsche’s thought with his life by dissecting his writing as he was becoming through his life. Nietzsche is a poet who wrote in prose and aphorisms. Nietzsche writes his feelings with ideas such that others can open their eyes rather than remaining blind. That to me is a definition of a poet. I would even give Nietzsche the compliment of not being a philosopher, because Nietzsche can be understood and the definition of a philosopher almost certainly has ‘not being understandable by regular people’ in its definition (okay, I’m just kidding), and this biography goes a long way towards explaining what Nietzsche thought and why it’s just as important to today.

Nietzsche was barely known throughout his sane period of life. Almost from the point he lost his sanity is when his fame started to blossom. Nietzsche was incredibly anti anti-Semite. The biographer gives ample evidence for that. More importantly, and this is where the biography excels, once ‘God is dead’ where do we get our meaning? Nietzsche has a project and within a series of books that sell 100 or so copies per book during his sane lifetime he resolves that question, and not to ruin it for anyone, his answer is thrown back to his readers; it is for you to find your meaning. In Nietzsche’s ‘Ecce Homo’, one of the few autobiographies worth reading, he’ll say ‘I gave them the bait, but they refused to nibble’.

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone. I know I’ll continue my mission of reading more works of Nietzsche, but now I’ll understand the context and the meaning a little bit better than I would have if I had not read this biography. As Nietzsche said, ‘no one strives for happiness, except for an Englishman’; our real striving is for our meaning not the transitory feelings of happiness

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A must for anyone interested in Nietzsche

A must read for anyone who wishes to fully understand Nietzsche (however vain that hope may be!) This is no "dry biography" but from beginning to end a wonderful collage of insights into the man, the people in his life, the circumstances of his writings and maybe most of all how his works were affected and presented after his time had passed - to significant effect on our world to this day. The description "Human, all too human" appears to apply to its author too, though how that affects our view of his works, as Nietzsche might prefer it, remains up to us. Sue Prideaux has created an excellent study and Nicholas Guy Smith adds even more with his superb reading.

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Great personal account of Nietzsche's life

A good choice for anyone wishing to get a strong sense of Nietzsche as a person. Good account of all the awful things his sister did after he went insane. Narration was overall good but Mr. Smith needs some real coaching on his German pronunciation.

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Excellent!

Definitely worth reading. At the beginning, the story focuses on introducing Richard Wagner for awhile.....a long while, but stick with it.

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He really was dynamite.

I feel like in order to understand a man’s philosophy, you have to also try to understand the man. This book does a great job of tying Nietzsche s philosophy to his life. A fascinating read, highly recommend it. Extremely relevant today as well, the phrase God is dead certainly rings true evermore now.

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Exceptional and Illuminating

This book reveales a great deal about Nietzsche's life that is extremely relevent to a sound understanding of his work.