The following passage taken from Nietzsche's Ecce Homo has been translated in two completely different ways in French. How do you interpret it?

Gleich jedem, der nie unter seines Gleichen lebte und dem der Begriff »Vergeltung« so unzugänglich ist wie etwa der Begriff »gleiche Rechte«, verbiete ich mir in Fällen, wo eine kleine oder sehr grosse Torheit an mir begangen wird, jede Gegenmaßregel, jede Schutzmaßregel, - wie billig, auch jede Verteidigung, jede »Rechtfertigung«. Meine Art Vergeltung besteht darin, der Dummheit so schnell wie möglich eine Klugheit nachzuschicken: so holt man sie vielleicht noch ein. Im Gleichniss geredet: ich schicke einen Topf mit Confitüren, um eine sauere Geschichte loszuwerden.

Henri Albert, Nietzsche's first translator in French, has :

  • Pour m’exprimer en image, je jette un pot de confitures pour me débarrasser de l’aigreur.

I throw a pot of jam to get rid of the bitterness. Schicken in the sense of zu Boden schicken.

Alexandre Vialatte, Kafka's first translator in French, has :

  • Pour employer une image : j'envoie un pot de confiture à mon adversaire pour le débarrasser de son aigreur.

I send a pot of jam to my opponent to rid him of his bitterness.

How should schicken be understood?


The second translator, Alexandre Vialette, is closer to the original text, but both translations are not perfect.

The first translation is obviously wrong by using jeter. Envoyer is the correct translation. The first-person narrator is sending an object by post, courier or whatever means to the other party. The object is meant as a gift to settle a conflict.

The second translation says that the pot of jam/marmalade is meant to make the recipient less bitter (actually, sour). This isn't implied by the original text. The narrator doesn't say that he wants to render him any favour, he simply wants to rid himself of some unpleasant affair.


Like everyone who has never lived among his peers and for whom the term "retaliation" is as inaccessible as the term "equal rights," I forbid myself in cases where a small or very great folly is committed against me, any counter-measure, any protective measure, - (no matter) how equitable, also any defense, any "justification". My kind of retaliation consists in following up a stupidity with a wisdom as quickly as possible: in this way one might catch up with it. Said in parable: I send a pot of confitures to get rid of a sour story.
(My translation)

Like every man who has never been able to meet his equal, and unto whom the concept "retaliation" is just as incomprehensible as the notion of "equal rights," I have forbidden myself the use of any sort of measure of security or protection — and also, of course, of defence and "justification" — in all cases in which I have been made the victim either of trifling or even very great foolishness. My form of retaliation consists in this: as soon as possible to set a piece of cleverness at the heels of an act of stupidity; by this means perhaps it may still be possible to overtake it. To speak in a parable: I dispatch a pot of jam in order to get rid of a bitter experience…
(Ludocvici translation)

Here schicken is to be understood as 'sending out': a word, a sentence.


  1. It leaves his mouth. The first stupidity perhaps involuntarily, or unwise, but to soften the blow, in tandem with a witty thing.

  2. More likely, as he speaks of 'revenge': Others say stupid things, but he counters with his infinite wisdom. Others insult him with sour words, he lifts up with wise words. That is then: 'someone throws in a dumb idea, Homo Nietzsche counters by throwing back his philosophical masterpieces, jotted spontaneously into the room.' That's his method of 'getting rid of'

The downward aspect of the suspected zu Boden schicken isn't actually that far from the truth either, considering the high horse from which Nietzsche views, well, everything and everyone.

  • To spare the commentatorss: Yo, it doesn't work with marmalade, as that is bitter! Sep 3 '19 at 11:39
  • 1
    It would work in german, as we don‘t make a difference between „Marmelade“ and „Konfitüre“ in everyday language. It‘s Erdbeermarmelade, Kirschmarmelade, even if they are technically Konfitüren or Fruchtsufstriche or what ever the correct technical term may be.
    – jmk
    Sep 4 '19 at 7:13
  • @jmk It's not technical. It's legal! The price all Europe had to pay for luring in the British was that all Continentals please stop using Marmelade for everything, and reserve it for bittersweet mush. Only citrus based marmalades are allowed to be called marmalade on sale shelves. It was only made illegal for Brentrance. Or was that Bradmission, Brascencion? Ah, whatever, let's called it Engführung! Sep 4 '19 at 7:20

I would think the second translation is more accurate. As the meaning can be understood as trying to defeat the aggressor by being the better and not get on his level.

Throwing something on the ground would be completely the opposite of what is said before.


Unfortunately I don't speak French. But because of

Meine Art Vergeltung besteht darin, der Dummheit so schnell wie möglich eine Klugheit nachzuschicken: so holt man sie vielleicht noch ein.

the meaning of

ich schicke einen Topf mit Confitüren, um eine sauere Geschichte loszuwerden

is obviously I send a pot of jam to get rid of the sour taste. and has nothing to do with throwing or zu Boden schicken.

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