Ida Overbeck in “Conversations with Nietzsche”
(1987, Oxford University Press, New York)
Chapter: Professor at the University of Basel/ 1878-1879:
“Near Nietzsche I had the feeling of a riddle, a mystery. He responded to something like a girlish naturalness with a certain solemnity against a background of modest humor and high spirits. I can still see him walking on the woodland paths, robustly but still seeking the path, which gave his stride a trace of awkwardness and unfreedom.
The struggle between aesthetic-artistic contemplation and moral consciousness had flared up in him, and his struggle, which for Nietzsche’s way of thinking and his way of life meant defeats and happiest victories, is the key to understanding him.
Nietzsche’s need for sentimentality is certain. Unfortunately it stood in his way only too often and forced him to endure painful semi-fulfillments. It had been heightened and strengthened by antiquity’s view of friendship. But friendship could not become really significant for him as a “Lebenskünstler”. The desire for friendship was not strong enough in him; he set greater store in the emotional state.
Nietzsche felt a wonderful power of satire in himself. But on the other hand he had an unusual need for kindness and forbearance toward others. When he was visiting us one summer in the early eighties, he told us, deeply perturbed, that he would yet end up in prison, to which I answered very cheerfully: ” Ah, Professor, then we will most certainly visit you.” He immediately became calm and cheerful. Nietzsche always lacked self-certainty; such was the honesty of his character and intellect.
Nietzsche hated all conceptual systematization; he wanted to eavesdrop on life’s own secrets and outshine everything that such a rich past had inflicted on man of joy and pain. A gigantic plan was, indeed, present. Nietzsche’s soul was a broadly expanding wishful soul which sought to embrace everything with the ardour of love and contempt and to release it transformed. Not by external contemplation and critique, but shaping it from the core of life!”
* Nietzsche in a letter to Franz Overbeck in 1881:
“My dear friend, what is this our life? A boat that swims in the sea, and all one knows for certain about it is that one day it will capsize. Here we are, two good old boats that have been faithful neighbors, and above all your hand has done its best to keep me from ‘capsizing’!”
Franz Overbeck und Friedrich Nietzsche