We cannot be sure how the philosopher, hater and rhetorical magician Friedrich Nietzsche obtained the writings of the great but now unfamous Japanese scholar, Seiji Koga (1745-1844). We do know that Nietzsche felt passionately about them, at least for a short time between 1888 and 1890, just before his bout with insanity and siphyllus. Among Nietzsche's collected works there is a small essay entitled Über Seiji Koga und Übersetzung (On Seiji Koga and Translation), on the subject of Seiji Koga's writings on translation.

The essay was not gathered together under the collection entitled Wille Zur Macht and was never published during Nietzsche's lifetime. It has been relegated to relative obscurity and a century of Nietzsche scholarship has only served to further obfuscate the value of this essay. I was lucky enough to receive a facsimile copy of the essay by request from a colleague in Nova Scotia, whom requested the essay from a postgraduate student at a small university in Bavaria, and was sent the entire essay, though a page appears missing. A word of warning: the integrity of this document as an original work by Nietzsche has never been verified, though I have no particular reason to doubt its veracity, origin, or importance. In my researches I have come in contact, via telephone, a certain professor at the University of Tubingen, who verified, in broken English, the essay as one of Nietzsche's. When I made a return phone call one year later, I learned from university staff that Jonkl de Vries (a Dutchman living in Germany), had died earlier that month due to congestive heart failure. I have learned from a friend at the library in Argentina that Jorge Luis Borges may have had plans to write a piece based on Nietzsche's essay, but that his death prevented it. I hope that some other Argentine poet may take up this cause.

The essay is written in Nietzsche's typical aphoristic style, consists of 92 of such aphorisms, across 9 handwritten pages, and is as furious and intense as his prose gets. It certainly betrays the onset of Nietzsche's insanity, perhaps this is why his publishers, his sister, and later Oscar Levy, made the mistake of its ommision from the Nietzsche canon. Nietzsche apprantly wanted to use Seiji Koga as an example of the degradation of Europe, for in his early work on the translation of European texts, Koga had noted the poverty of Indo-European languages in comparison to his own native Japanese. Though Seiji Koga, known also as Blooming Flower of the West, was never spiteful or critical of Europe or her languages, he was careful to note a certain incommenusaribility between her languages, particularly Latin and German and languages closer to his home, such as Japanese and Chinese.

Here are seven excerpts from the essay. The translation is mine, and is poor. My apologies that the essay is here reproduced incompletely and with such a lack of talent in translation.



§1 - We in Europe are the descendants of a generation of crisis. We know now what befalls us, except our own vanishing, our own betrayal. Under the auspices of the owl that falls short of its breath, we must now take off our own chains, for we have done this, we have held ourselves captive by breathing with only half of our hearts, with speaking only half of our words. If there is room for Zarathustra, it is in the shadows of our souls, in the remote recesses in which hidden languages hide and scandalize the soul of our virgin mouths. We have not yet spoken, Europe! And when I dare to draw in my breath, your eyes will shudder in anticipation of the firey hell that our mouths will unleash. You will censor your souls, and your souls will censor your morality. Your religion will break your own legs from underneath you and you will perish on your fall towards hell. If you were once a camel, be prepared to be eaten by a lion.

§13 - Seiji Koga's Translation of Europe is one such book, for it masterfully deals a blow to those who are afraid to seek out the truth. (Note: "one such book" refers to books that are "heavy-handed and promote a battle of the soul with the sober remnants of a Christian morality that has circumcised the health of our minds, our bodies, and our spirit" as quoted in §12, -LM)

§14 - Seiji Koga examines St. Jerome and his work on translating the farcical word of God, the word of the dead, the word of the slave, which some have called The Vulgate, which I also call by that name because it reminds me of the English word "vulgar" which rings "common" in my proud German ear, which is right now cowering to hear that it is itself German, its pride is lost in its Germanic origin. St. Jerome could not properly translate the Bible because his Latin language was too poor for that Greek original. The Church, Holy Latinia, could not speak Greek, because Greek is a language designed for a proud and masterful race, the race of Dionysus and revelry of rage and naked aggression, while Latin is a language designed for submission, a two-way submission, the submission of the weak to the strong, whom daily chant their prayers, and their thanks for being weak, and the submission of the strong to the weak, whom daily define the strength according to the weak, who exist for themselves only in contrast to the weak, who are then therefore themselves weak are.

§15 - This is what Seiji Koga has said, and his words are a flower upon which I have chewed for a millenium. When I awoke from my masticating somnambulance, I vomited, and then was myself vomited from the mouth of a leviathan. That leviathan was a pathetic creature, an elephantine child's toy, that wrecked the table at which it sat for its own dinner. The Reich, the Prussia, the Error, the Shadow of an Idol, living under the wretched ideals of an emperor who is so poor that he must write his own name on each piece of his gold.

§16 - Seiji Koga wrote in Japanese, "The language of Europe is tamed and made passive by the way in which it is so often read. In Japan, I am dragon, and language is my fire. In Europe, one is flower, and language is the rain. In Japan, I am history, and language is my emperor. In Europe, one is cave, and language is the wall. In Japan, I am wind, and language is my sound. In Europe, one is the sound, and language is the wind that blows it." Thus there is such an intense dissapointment at how Europe has behaved, that I must fight whoever lacks the industriousness* to accept what I have said. (*Note: the original German here is "fleissig" which seems grammatically incorrect, but I am not versed in the German of Nietzsche's time. The whole sentence is grammatically difficult, and so the translation I have rendered may seem lacking. Apologies, -LM. As exemplary of the awkward constructions of the original, I offer the following aphorism in translation, which should reveal that Nietzsche was indeed losing something at the time of writing, if not his mind.).

§56 - The translation into Prussian mouths borders on the edge of the river, a crane beckoning a fish forth, in disastrous hatred of its mortal eating-enemy-face. There will always be fish. This is for spoken. Man has no face. Fish have five hundred.

§94 - So Seiji Koga is a prophet. Some will call him a madman, but I will call him a überman. He is a real truth of Zarathustra. Thus Zarathustra has spoken: "When Zarathustra arrived at the nearest town which adjoineth the forest, he found many people assembled in the market-place; for it had been announced that a rope-dancer would give a performance. And Zarathustra spake thus unto the people: I teach you the superman. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?". This is the first thing that Zarathustra said, upon coming down off the mountain. It is still a veracity so pure that the diamondheads of your pathetic moral figures crash and wreck themselves upon its impressive stature and the grandeur of its gleam will only blind you, for you are poor, and weak, you do not understand language yet. Only if you follow me, through hell, will you understand what it is to speak, and above all to write. Only then will you be known under the name that you have always wished to. You can only warn yourself against Zarathustra. For all else is pain, and your soul is wretched, Christian.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.