Historia Abscondita (An Index of Joy)

Nick Thurston

Price £5.98+pp
ISBN 9780955309267
Year 2007
Edition 300
Pages 24
Binding softback; loose leaf
Illustration text only
Dimensions 175 x 105 mm

Historia Abscondita selects its title, format and purpose from amongst Friedrich Nietzsche’s “most personal of all books”, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft. (“la gaya scienza”). Without a word of his own, Thurston dances with Nietzsche to the song of his aphorisms, re-reading possibility into his classic challenges through a subtle conceptual appropriation.

The index of Walter Kaufmann’s canonical English translation provides a site and concealed syntax that Thurston opens anew. The past, present and future influences, on and of Nietzsche, become conceptually unbound. This book allows the new relations of alphabetised coincidence that emerge to remain joyously unstable.

Every act of reading is an act of generative deformance, producing a text anew. In a gesture of deliberate selection, Nick Thurston gives us Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science through its translated index. These word lists stand as signposts to an intellectual terrain recoverable only speculatively, through indexical trace. The familiar order of the alphabet provides its own illusion of coherence, within which the peculiar juxtapositions of happenstance offer their surprises and conundrums. Nietzsche the author is long vanished from this text, which is Walter Kaufmann’s posthumous translation of his original, and the loss of history that is a central theme of that book becomes enacted in this Index of Joy. All we have is what is left behind – enough to give a glimpse of what has vanished? or to put us in pursuit of the rest of that lost history? A conceptual work that enacts its polemical operations through a deceptively simple device, Thurston’s Historia Abscondita uses visual and material references to call forth the associative process through which the impossible task of recovery is provoked.”

Johanna Drucker, University of California, Los Angeles

Pointing with clever concision to Nietzsche’s signature genre of clever concision – the aphorism – the lists in Historia Abscondita engage the philosopher with his own serious playfulness, lyric philosophizing, and a difficult obscurity of Dionysian proportion. Although he meticulously replicates the entries in the Index to Walter Kaufman’s canonical translation, down to the typeface and layout, Nick Thurston has also eliminated all the corresponding page numbers, crippling the indexical gestures of the lemmata and establishing a recursive series of detachments and reference: the headwords are detached from their page numbers, the pages are detached from their binding, but every level gestures – though facsimile and reproduction – inevitably toward the source. Necessity and chance, precision and ‘pataphyiscs’: a gay science indeed!”

Craig Dworkin, University of Utah

Historia Abscondita (An Index of Joy)

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