Now, of particular concern here are the “closing melodies” or endings of The Gay Science and Beyond Good and Evil and, in addition, the integral relationship between the final aphorisms of those books and the poems that follow them, which even the two studies devoted to Nietzsche’s poetry have neglected to observe. If the notion of strict or pure beginnings and endings is held in question, and though Nietzsche stood in strict opposition to all systematizers, simultaneously, he was profoundly classically minded—that is, in terms of structure, in the very design and order of his books, or their architectural organization. The music of his thought. As Nietzsche himself reveals in an aphorism entitled “Against the shortsighted,” and this illuminating passage dramatically collapses views such as Danto’s (reading Nietzsche in any indiscriminate order), Nietzsche’s texts are far from a series of irregularly arranged aphorisms that can be read in any order. “Do you think this work must be a patchwork [Stückwerk] because I give it to you (and have to give it to you) in pieces [Stücken]?” (AOM §128) Here, the explicit implication is that, despite the book’s Stückwerk character, which may in part be a mask adopted out of necessity, it is ordered. As early as 1919 Walter Benjamin proclaimed that, “These days, the fact that an author expresses himself in aphorisms will not count for anyone as proving anything against his systematic intentions. Nietzsche, for example, wrote aphoristically, characterizing himself moreover as the enemy of system; yet he thought through his philosophy in a comprehensive and unitary manner in keeping with his guiding ideas, and in the end began to write his system.” And let us recall that, from the Birth or Tragedy to Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche often praises the one and the whole over the fragment and the individual—as Zarathustra announces, emphasizing the greater significance of unity, “I compose into one and bring together what is fragment [Bruchstücken] and riddle and cruel coincidence” (Z: II 20, emphasis added). Only the worst readers Nietzsche notes seize bits and pieces from his texts, “dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole” (AOM §137).
His work’s classical sense of structure is evident in numerous ways, too—most obvious, in his use of prefaces, forewords, post-scripts, and epilogues. And in the Gay Science, Nietzsche expresses admiration for knowing how to end things well, which he considers of particular importance: “Masters of the first rank are revealed by the fact that in great as well as small matters they know how to end perfectly, whether it is a matter of ending a melody or a thought, or the fifth act of a tragedy or of an action of state.” It is only those “of the second rank” who “become restless as the end approaches and do not manage to slope into the sea in such proud and calm harmony as, for example, the mountains at Portofino—where the bay of Genoa ends its melody” (GS §281). This aphorism should attune us to the fact that the ending of the Gay Science is of special significance, as are the endings (and beginnings, such as for instance the generally ignored beginning of GS—the book does not begin with the first aphorism, but the prelude “Joke, Cunning, and Revenge”) of all of Nietzsche’s books, but let us drift slightly further afar before hearkening briefly to that closing melody.
In his detailed study of Beyond Good and Evil, Laurence Lampert discusses how the book’s architecture is “reflected by its frame,” which includes a preface and aftersong. He notes further that each of the nine chapters of the book “is composed as a coherent whole, offering an argument more latent than manifest but an argument that must be appreciated if Nietzsche’s deepest aim is to be appreciated.” What is most conspicuously classical in the structure of the book (and this may be the case with many of his books), is how Nietzsche grounds the most fundamental thought in the exact center of each chapter. This is not to argue, as should be apparent, that Nietzsche’s work is not fragmentary in the philosophical sense, or that there is closure in his thought, but that his books are very carefully constructed, that they have a larger order that is more like a constellation or magnetic field, if not a great architectural work, like the Mole Antonelliana — grand style is, as Nietzsche avows, a form of architecture, which his books themselves attest to. A book is a building, thus it is to be entered through its front door, not a window on the third floor. Similarly, in his study of Human, All Too Human, Jonathan R. Cohen outlines how, despite its ‘aphoristic’ style, the book “has a unified literary structure and integrity, which are central to the communication of the book’s philosophical message.” As Camelia Elias has observed though, the aphorism is strictly not a fragment, thus it isn’t Nietzsche’s use of aphorisms that would make the book fragmentary; in fact, as Benjamin recognized much earlier, writing aphorisms is hardly proof against systematic structures. “In terms of understanding the fragment as a performative concept, rather than as a genre,” Elias explains, “the aphorism is not close to the fragment at all.” Elucidating further, she states that theorists of the aphorism “make a distinction between the form and content of the aphorism at the expense of wit which figures in a subordinate relation to both the semantic and syntactic structures identified in the aphorism. […] Insofar as the aphorism thus shows a preference for form, it does not possess the same potential as the fragment to be performative.” This is a crucial distinction that I do not believe Nietzsche scholars such as Danto have made. When seriously considered, it will change how we read Nietzsche. Manuscript copies of Nietzsche’s books also reveal that he deliberated over the order of their numbered sections, and that he arranged them with painstaking care, often changing their placement until finally settling on what he thought was the perfect arrangement, a question not only of content, but of rhythm, pace, and tempo. The music of his architecture, the compositional aspect of his work, its symphonic or orchestral structure.