Who Is Nietzsche's Zarathustra?

In turn, Nietzsche is not Zarathustra, but the questioner who seeks to create in thought Zarathustra's essence.

The overman proceeds beyond prior and contemporary humanity; thus he is a transition, a bridge. In order for us learners to be able to follow the teacher who teaches the overman, we must—keeping now to the imagery—get onto the bridge. We are thinking the crucial aspects of the transition when we heed these three things:

First, that from which the one who is in transition departs.

Second, the transition itself.

Third, that toward which the one in transition is heading.

Especially the last-mentioned aspect we must have in view; above all, the one who is in transition must have it in view; and before him, the teacher who is to show it to him must have it in view. If a preview of the "whither" is missing, the one in transition remains rudderless, and the place from which he must release himself remains undetermined. And yet the place to which the one in transition is called first shows itself in the full light of day only when he has gone over to it. For the one in transition—and particularly for the one who, as the teacher, is to point the way of transition, particularly for Zarathustra himself—the "whither" remains always at a far remove. The remoteness persists. Inasmuch as it persists, it remains in a kind of proximity, a proximity that preserves what is remote as remote by commemorating it and turning its thoughts toward it. Commemorative nearness to the remote is what our language calls "longing," die Sehnsucht. We wrongly associate the word Sucht with suchen, "to seek" and "to be driven." But the old word Sucht (as in Gelbsucht, "jaundice," and Schwindsucht, "consumption") means illness, suffering, pain.

Longing is the agony of the nearness of what lies afar.

Whither the one in transition goes, there his longing is at home. The one in transition, and even the one who points out the way to him, the teacher, is (as we have already heard) on the way home to the essence that is most proper to him. He is the convalescent. Immediately following the episode called "The Convalescent," in the third part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is the episode entitled "On the Great Longing." With this episode, the third-to-last of Part III, the work Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a whole attains its summit.