The Book Ferret: Tereza, Karenin, Nietzsche and a horse

Unfortunately I’ve been too busy this week to research anything for this post, so instead I’ll just share one of my favourite extracts from one of my favourite books, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. It’s a piece of writing that sparks an emotional reaction whenever I read it. I love its tragic, beautiful depiction of the relationship between animals and human beings, and the fond way Kundera muses over his own character and the philosopher who has inspired him. It also permanently endeared Nietzsche to me, and left me with bottomless contempt for Descartes whose philosophy argues that animals are mere machines who do not feel pain or suffer.

Tereza keeps appearing before my eyes. I see her sitting on the stump, petting Karenin’s head and ruminating on mankind’s débâcles. Another image also comes to mind: Nietzsche leaving his hotel in Turin. Seeing a horse and a coachman beating it with a whip, Nietzsche went up to the horse and, before the coachman’s very eyes, put his arms around the horse’s neck and burst into tears.

That took place in 1889, when Nietzsche, too, had removed himself from the world of people. In other words, it was at the time when his mental illness had just erupted. But for that very reason I feel his gesture has broad implications: Nietzsche was trying to apologise to the horse for Descartes. His lunacy (that is, his final break with mankind) began at the very moment he burst into tears over the horse. And that is the Nietzsche I love, just as I love Tereza with the mortally ill dog resting his head in her lap. I see them one next to the other: both stepping down from the road along which mankind, ‘the master and proprietor of nature’, marches onward.

The Book Ferret is a weekly feature on Violin in a Void that will showcase a cool or interesting book-related find every Thursday. Notable new releases, great bookshops, events, cover art, websites, gadgets and accessories – anything to make bookworms happy.

If you want to join in, grab the Ferret pic, link it and your post back here, and add your name and url to the comments.

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