This book presents an absorbing account of the bizarre and fluctuating relationship between the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the composer Richard Wagner, and his wife Cosima. Nietzsche was 25 when he first met Wagner and his 32-year-old mistress Cosima (daughter of Franz Liszt and at that time wife of the conductor Hans von Bülow) in May 1869. The relationship survived on a combination of mutual intellectual admirationdominated by the bullying Wagnerand erotic jealousy until the composer’s death in 1883 and the philosopher’s own descent into madness six years later.
The book, first published in German in 1996, brings this turbulent relationship vividly to life. Joachim Köhler shows for the first time how their traumatized childhoods bound Nietzsche and Cosima in submission to the demonic, aging Wagner, how Nietzsche was enticed into the Bayreuth labyrinth, entrapped in its culture wars and used as a tool in its sectarianism and antisemitism. The book sheds new light on Nietzsche’s early writings, revealing them subverted by Wagner to parade his own ideas of German superiority, of the domination of the masses by a few chosen geniuses, and of the supremacy of art and aesthetics over morals and humanity. The sources of Nietzsche’s Superman” and Will to Power” are traced to the pre-fascist ideology of Richard and Cosima Wagner, an ideology later uncomprehendingly idolized by Hitler’s Reich.