Paperback review: Forgotten Fatherland - The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche, By Ben Macintyre


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The Independent Culture

The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has often, unfairly, been associated with right-wing notions of nationalism and racial purity.

The fault for this lies partly with his sister, Elisabeth: after Friedrich's death in 1900 she selectively edited his work to fit with her own prejudices, selling him as a sort of proto-Nazi.

In this book, Ben Macintyre tells Elisabeth's story, focusing on her marriage to vociferous anti-Semite Bernhard Förster, with whom she founded an Aryan colony in the Paraguayan jungle. Macintyre seems unsure whether he is writing a travelogue or a biography, describing a visit to Paraguay – where he finds a few hardy Germans, clinging on – before settling into conventional biographical mode. But his portrait of Elisabeth – beautiful, bigoted, indomitable – is consistently fascinating.