Long recognized as an important and abiding influence in the European artistic and intellectual circles of the last century, the work of Pierre Klossowski is slowly gaining recognition in the Anglo-American scholarly community. The older brother of the painter Balthus, a friend of Rilke and Gide among others, and a celebrated artist in his own right, Klossowski is a difficult if not impossible thinker to categorize. From quite early in his career, Nietzsche was an important influence on Klossowski’s work. In addition to translating two volumes for Nietzsche’s Oeuvres Complètes (1967, 1976), as well as Heidegger’s four-volume work on Nietzsche (1976), Klossowski also wrote a number of essays on Nietzsche as well as a book, Nietzsche et le Cercle Vicieux (1969). In a note to Différence et Répétition, Gilles Deleuze, citing “Nietzsche, Polytheism, and Parody” as well as “Forgetting and Anamnesis in the Lived Experience of the Eternal Return of the Same,” writes that Klossowski’s work has “renewed the interpretation of Nietzsche.”
“Nietzsche, Polytheism, and Parody” appeared as the final essay of Klossowski’s book, Un si funeste désir (Such a Deathly Desire), first published in 1963. It is one of two essays in the book that are devoted explicitly to Nietzsche; the second, “On Some Fundamental Themes of Nietzsche’s Gaya Scienza,” is the opening essay of the volume and had previously appeared as an introduction to Klossowski’s translation of The Gay Science. “Nietzsche, Polytheism, and Parody” had not previously appeared in print, although Klossowski had presented it as a lecture at the Collège de Philosophie in Paris in 1957. Together, the two essays bound a series of reflections on Gide, Blanchot, Bataille, and others, all of which appeared previously – sometimes in a different form – and that taken together explicate Klossowski’s conception of “the demon.” The conception of the demon, drawn from The Gay Science, is for Klossowski a figuration of the double life of the existing human being: both conscious, rational, goal-directed, and vital, passionate, a victim of intensities.