In aphorism 339 in the Gay Science, Nietzsche contemplates the Greeks yet again.

The Greeks, to be sure prayed: "Everything beautful twice, even three times". They implored the gods with good reason, for ungodly reality gives us the beautiful once or not at all.


I mean to say that the world is overfull of beautiful things; but nevertheless poor, very poor when it comes to beautiful moments; and unveilings of these things. But perhaps this is the most powerful magic of life: it is covered by a veil interwoven with gold, a veil of beautiful possibilities, sparkling with promise, resistance, bashfulness, mockery, pity and seduction. Yes, life is a woman.

How can a world be not just full, but overfull of beautiful things; but poor in beautiful moments?

Can it mean that possession when we mean to possess becomes non-possession? If not that, then is there a more useful interpretation - an interpretation with more sense?


The English translation is somewhat misleading.

Die Griechen beteten wohl: „Zwei und drei Mal alles Schöne!“ [...] Ich will sagen, dass die Welt übervoll von schönen Dingen ist, aber trotzdem arm, sehr arm an schönen Augenblicken und Enthüllungen dieser Dinge. Aber vielleicht ist diess der stärkste Zauber des Lebens: es liegt ein golddurchwirkter Schleier von schönen Möglichkeiten über ihm, verheissend, widerstrebend, schamhaft, spöttisch, mitleidig, verführerisch. Ja, das Leben ist ein Weib!

The world is full of beautiful things, but poor on (beautiful) moments that reveal these things.

That ties in with the sentence before: "die höchsten Höhen alles Guten, sei es Werk, That, Mensch, Natur, seien bisher für die Meisten und selbst für die Besten etwas Verborgenes und Verhülltes gewesen", i.e. most good stuff is usually hidden.

Therefore, for Nietzsche life is like a woman (the aphorism's title is 'vita femina'), as 'woman' for Nietzsche means an aluring veil. (See on this theme: Derrida, Eperons. Les styles de Nietzsche)

  • 1
    Maya, is the name for the Indian concept of the veil of illusion which hides the world as it really is; interestingly it is also used as a female name. Sep 3 '15 at 22:15

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