Dead man walking in Turin, part 2

Franz Overbeck’s diary.

10 January 1889, Basel.
Dr Bettman advised for Nietzsche’s immediate removal from Turin. His situation could only worsen now, he said, and we would want him somewhere safe, where he could harm nobody. I asked whether we should not destroy him, adding that Fritz and I had often discussed this eventuality and that he had extracted a promise from me to end his days, should the disease take over. Bettman stopped me. There was still a faint possibility of recovery, he said. I must not lose hope yet. There was to date at least one case we knew of, a young woman in whom the disease had been significantly advanced, and who was now fully recovered and leaving a productive life in Frankfurt. If we could take him as far as Wille’s Sanitorium, in Basel, he would have chance of getting better. I agreed. The journey turned out  despite my fears to be fairly uneventful, but I could not have managed without the dentist. We injected Fritz with strong doses of bromide and chloral hydrate.  Bettmann was firm and confident in his every move and Fritz, sensing that, bowed easily to his authority. He could still talk a little but there was not the shadow of his former self in his mad discourses. When I dropped him off at the Sanatorium, this morning, I could not but help thinking that my good friend Nietzsche, despite what Bettmann says, is well and truly dead.

18 January, Jena.

Yesterday, having left my family again, I assisted the removal of my friend to a clinic in Jena. His mother, Fransizka, requested the move, so that she could be with him every day, and Martha approved it.  I am concerned that his new surroundings are not secure enough, as Fritz has become increasingly violent. In the train, he attempted to bite Frau Nietzsche’s arm. She had been warned not to let any contact take place and she escaped unscathed. But what will happen if another patient finds himself or herself in Fritz’s path? At least Wille knew what he was up against. He has written to the director of the Jena clinic, to tell him of precautions he must take, but I worry that this will not be enough. The last thing we need is an epidemic of the disease starting among the insane. Lou has promised that she will come to talk to Fransizka about daily routines and caution her more against physical contact. I am glad of it as I do not feel I have the strength to continue in this effort to  keep alive the monster that once was my friend. I return home today, and intend to devote myself to my wife and children and my work at the university for a good long while before I go out on Martha’s business again.


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