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Oscar Ludwig Levy (28 March 1867 – 13 August 1946) was a German Jewish physician and writer, now known as a scholar of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose works he first saw translated systematically into English. His was a paradoxical life, of self-exile and exile, and of writing on and (as often taken) against Judaism. He was influenced by the racialist theories of Arthur de Gobineau. He also admired Benjamin Disraeli, two of whose novels he translated into the German language.
Life and career
Levy was born in Stargard in the Province of Pomerania, the son of Ernestina (née Lewy) and Moritz Levy. He studied medicine in Freiburg, qualifying in 1891. He left the German Empire in 1894, where his father was a banker in Wiesbaden, and lived in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
He apparently discovered, or was more thoroughly converted to, Nietzsche in 1905 or 1906 via a patient. The 18-volume Nietzsche translation he oversaw appeared from 1909 to 1913. This large effort has later been criticised as less than scholarly. His collaborators were Francis Bickley, Paul V. Cohn, Thomas Common, William S. Haussman, J.M. Kennedy, Anthony Ludovici, Maximilian A. Mugge, Maude D. Petre, Horace B. Samuel, Herman Scheffauer, G.T. Wrench and Helen Zimmern. Ludovici became his most important follower. In general he found little British support, but A.R. Orage was an enthusiast and Levy found an outlet in The New Age.
Subsequently his life was complicated by having to leave the United Kingdom and his medical practice despite his support for the British side against the Central Powers when World War I broke out. He went back to the German Empire in 1915 and then to Switzerland. Back in the United Kingdom in 1920, he incautiously wrote a preface for an inflammatory political pamphlet by George Pitt-Rivers, The World Significance of the Russian Revolution. He was deported as an alien in 1921. He then lived in the French Third Republic.
Eventually he returned to the United Kingdom. He died in Oxford. He was married to Frieda Brauer. His daughter Maud lived in Oxford, having married the bookseller Albi Rosenthal. His grandson is television sports presenter Jim Rosenthal and his great-grandson is actor Tom Rosenthal.
His papers were in 2004 deposited in the Nietzsche-Haus in Sils Maria.
- Das neunzehnte Jahrhundert, 1904. Translated into English by Leonard A. Magnus as The Revival of Aristocracy, London: Probsthain & Co., 1906.
- (tr. into German) Contarini Fleming, ein psychologischer roman by Benjamin Disraeli. Berlin: Oesterheld, 1909.
- Introduction to On the tracks of life: the immorality of morality by Leone Gioacchino Sera, translated by J. M. Kennedy, 1909.
- (ed.) The complete works of Friedrich Nietzsche. The first complete and authorized English translation. 18 vols. Edinburgh and London: T.N. Foulis, 1909-1913.
- Introduction to Atta Troll by Heinrich Heine, translated by Herman Scheffauer, 1913
- (ed. with intro.) Selected letters of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1913. Translated by Anthony Ludovici.
- My Battle for Nietzsche in England
- Nietzsche verstehen. Essays aus dem Exil 1913-1937
- The Idiocy of Idealism. London: W. Hodge, 1940.
- Works by Oscar Levy at Project Gutenberg
- PDF Breeding Superman by Dan Stone, with detailed biographical information
- German-language article
- German-language article