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Tangled Timelines in Steiner’s Autobiography

In his autobiography Steiner talks about meeting Nietzsche in 1896, and appears to say that this meeting influenced a book he wrote in 1895. What’s going on?

I just re-read the chapter in German, and I’m going to judge it as ambiguous. Steiner spends three pages talking about how he experienced Nietzsche. But it is clear that he means through Nietzsche’s writing, because Steiner says as much. But he talks about his experience of Nietzsche’s being at length while clearly referring to the time before their meeting. The he talks about meeting Nietzsche’s sister, and references their falling out. Then the meeting with Nietzsche, a page on the impression that made on him, and then the difference between the experience of Nietzsche from reading and from seeing him (Nietzsche was essentially catatonic at that point). Then the sentence: “I had been astounded at what Nietzsche had written; but I saw now behind my admiration a shining bright image/impression. [paragraph break] In my thinking I could only admire that which I had beheld back then. And that admiration is the contents of my book… That the book remained merely such admiration conceals the true fact that the image/impression of Nietzsche was what had inspired me” (my translation).

The repetition of the word Bild (image, but also occasionally vision, idea, conception, or impression) between the two paragraphs makes it appear that the image/impression/vision in question is the one he formed in the presence of Nietzsche in 1896. And that does seem like the most logical reading, which would mean that Steiner jumbled his timeline. But it is ambiguous, since he did describe pages earlier the impression Nietzsche made on him purely through his writings starting in 1889. And Steiner could conceivably be referring to this image/impression/vision. Because two pages earlier, describing his encounter only through reading Steiner opens a paragraph, “That is how I experienced Nietzsche” referring to what he had read. If this is the case you could fault Steiner as a writer for not being more clear about which experience or impression he was referring to: the one from two pages earlier formed as a reader, or the one from two paragraphs earlier formed by standing in Nietzsche’s presence.

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