Nietzsche says ‘Be Yourself’ in latest compilation of aphorisms – Books

Sylviana Hamdani (The Jakarta Post)

Jakarta ●
Sun, September 25, 2022

Nietzsche, philosophy, book review, book recommendation, start, professor, author

The German professor Berthold Damshäuser has translated some of Friedrich Nietzsche’s “most nutritious” aphorisms into Indonesian and put them together in a book.

“Be yourself” is perhaps one of the most repeated mantras of the 21st century. With this phrase we seem to be encouraging each other to stay true to ourselves and our abilities in life without comparing ourselves to others.

No influencer and no successful entrepreneur today has come up with the motto. Originally the sentence be yourself (be yourself), was written down by the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) in his book Schopenhauer as an educator (Schopenhauer as educator, 1874).

“It was derived from a long text by [Greek poet] Pindaros [also known as Pindar, 518-438 BC]’ said German professor Berthold Damshäuser in an interview with Fluent Indonesian The Jakarta Post at the Goethe Institute in Jakarta on August 27th.

“Nietzsche seemed to have liked and repeated [the phrase] to describe again and again [his concept of] superman [super-human].”

The professor, who teaches Indonesian language and literature at the University of Bonn, compiled over 200 aphorisms from Nietzsche, translated them into Indonesian and published them in a book entitled Jadilah Diri Sendiri! Companion Aforisme dan Kata Mutiara Friedrich Nietzsche (Be yourself! A collection of aphorisms and wisdom from Friedrich Nietzsche).

The 172-page book was launched on August 27 at the Goethe Institute in Jakarta.

“I believe that the content of the book will nourish the soul and the intellect orange awam [laymen]’ Damshauser said.

Get to know the author: Berthold Damshauser poses with his book “Jadilah Diri Sendiri!  Kumpulan Aforisme dan Kata Mutiara Friedrich Nietzsche' after an interview.  (JP/Sylviana Hamdani) Get to know the author: Berthold Damshauser poses with his book “Jadilah Diri Sendiri! Kumpulan Aforisme dan Kata Mutiara Friedrich Nietzsche’ after an interview. (JP/Sylviana Hamdani) (JP/Sylviana Hamdani)

An “Indonesian”

“I have completely different views than Nietzsche,” said the professor. “But I do not mind. Nietzsche wrote so many enriching and thought-provoking aphorisms. It was my pleasure to be able to translate these beautiful texts from German into Indonesian.”

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The 65-year-old is an expert in German-Indonesian and Indonesian-German translation and interpreting.

The professor fell in love with Indonesia while studying German and philosophy at the University of Bochum.

“It all happened by accident,” he says. “An Indonesian friend invited me to Indonesia. Then I fell in love with the country and learned the language.”

Damshäuser was so in love with the country that he completed bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies in Indonesian language and literature at the University of Cologne, the University of Bonn and the University of Indonesia between 1978 and 1984.

“I’m Indonesian,” he said with a proud smile.

Since 1986 he has been teaching Indonesian language and literature at the Institute for Oriental and Asian Studies at the University of Bonn.

Damshäuser was hired as an interpreter for the former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Helmut Kohl, commissioned when he visited Indonesia in 1993.

In 1995, the professor was also employed as an interpreter for the former Indonesian President Soeharto during his visit to Germany.

Over the course of his career, Damshäuser has translated and published over a dozen literary books from German to Indonesian and vice versa. Among his most important works tongue fire (Fire Tongue, 2015), an anthology of modern Indonesian poetry that he has translated into German.

He also authored a book titled in 2015 Ini Dan Itu Indonesia (This and That Indonesia), which contains his views on the country.

The professor always admired Friedrich Nietzsche for his life and his work.

“Nietzsche was not a coward at all,” he said. “He was ill most of his life and never complained. He accepted all the challenges of his life and bravely faced them.”

In the last chapter of his book Jadilah Diri Sendiri: Kumpulan Aforisme dan Kata Mutiara Friedrich Nietzsche, the professor also wrote a brief biography of Nietzsche, including the years he suffered from debilitating migraines and depression. While suffering stoically, the philosopher penned another of his famous quotes: What does not kill me, makes me stronger (What does not kill me, makes me stronger).

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“That is indeed a good lesson from Nietzsche, especially at this time when many people feel like victims of society,” said the professor.

Inside: A biography of Nietzsche (right side) in the last chapter of the book.  (JP/Sylviana Hamdani)Inside: A biography of Nietzsche (right side) in the last chapter of the book. (JP/Sylviana Hamdani) (JP/Sylviana Hamdani)

translate ambiguity

It took Damshäuser almost three years to compile Nietzsche’s aphorisms and translate them into Indonesian.

“I read more than ten books by Nietzsche and selected some of his most interesting quotes before translating them into Indonesian,” said the father of two.

According to the professor, the main difficulty in translating the quotes lies in the ambiguity of the Indonesian language.

“The Indonesian language is very ambiguous,” he said. “A word or phrase can mean many things. It is very difficult to choose the right one [word/phrase] in translating from German into Indonesian and conveying the correct meaning.”

The lack of tenses in Indonesian also complicates translation into the language.

The book is published by Diva Press, a publishing company based in Yogyakarta.

“The compilation sheds a new, interesting light on Nietzsche, especially since his aphorisms were translated by a native German who is fluent in Indonesian,” said Nisrina, a representative of Diva Press, during a Sept. 16 WhatsApp interview.

Previously, the publisher also published two other books about Nietzsche, viz Syahwat Keabadian (Eternal Passion, 2020), a compilation of poems by the German philosopher, compiled and translated by Damshäuser and Indonesian poet Agus R. Sarjono, and Zarathustra (2019), translated by Indonesian literary critic HB Jassin.

The first edition of Jadilah Diri Sendiri: Kumpulan Aforisme dan Kata Mutiara Friedrich Nietzsche will be printed in 1,500 copies and is available in major bookshops and marketplaces for Rp 58,000.

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Indonesian author Ayu Utami acknowledged the professor’s efforts in compiling and translating Nietzsche’s aphorisms into Indonesian.

“I thank package [Mr.] Berthold for his work which has enriched the wealth of translated literature in Indonesia,” Ayu said during a discussion following the book launch at the Goethe-Institut Jakarta on August 27.

“[Nietzsche’s] Phrases are beautiful indeed,” Ayu said. “Perhaps that is because Nietzsche was not only a philosopher, but also a poet and composer. [It’s] a fact many of us often overlook.”

During the discussion, Ayu Utami also presented a musical composition by Nietzsche entitled birthday symphony (Birthday Symphony).

According to Ayu, readers can easily take one of Nietzsche’s beautiful aphorisms and upload them to social media to impress their followers.

“If you ever run out of ideas to post on Twitter or Instagram, you can just refer to the book and pick some of the smart phrases there,” Ayu added with a meaningful smile.

dr A. Setyo Wibowo, Lecturer at Driyarkara School of Philosophy (STF Driyarkara), also approved the book during the discussion.

“Nietzsche’s [thinking] has never been easy to understand,” Setyo said. “That’s why I really appreciate the translation of Nietzsche’s aphorisms by Berthold Damshäuser, a German who speaks fluent Indonesian.”

For the next edition, the lecturer suggested that Damshäuser should also include an interpretation in the book for each of Nietzsche’s aphorisms, so that the phrases are not “enigmatic sentences” that are difficult for laypeople to digest.

But Damshauser doesn’t seem to agree.

“Let’s forget who Nietzsche was, what he wanted to say, and just read the book,” said Damshäuser. “Read it carefully. Read it many times and delve into its sentences. Do you agree with them? Or do you disagree?”

“[Reading the book] can be the first step for you to know and be yourself.”

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