A Wagnerian youth

"Taking everything into consideration I could never have survived my youth without Wagnerian music. For I was condemned to the society of Germans. If one wishes to escape from unbearable pressure then one needs hashish. Well, I needed Wagner. Wagner is the antidote to everything essentially German -- the fact that he is a poison too I do not deny. From the moment that Tristan was arranged for the piano -- all honour to you Herr von Bulow! I was a Wagnerian. Wagner’s previous works seemed beneath me -- they were too commonplace, too "German”. But to this day I am still seeking for a work which would be a match to Tristan in dangerous fascination and possess the same gruesome and sweet quality of infinity; I seek among all the arts in vain. All the quaint features of Leonardo da Vinci’s work lose their charm at the sound of the first bar in Tristan. This work is without question Wagner’s non plus ultra; after its creation the composition of the Mastersingers and of the Ring was a relaxation to him. To become healthier—this in a nature like Wagner’s amounts to going backwards. The curiosity of the psychologist is so great in me that I regard it as quite a special privilege to have lived at the right time and to have lived precisely among Germans so as to be ripe for this work. The world must indeed be empty for him who has never been unhealthy enough for this "hellish voluptuousness": it is allowable, even obligatory to employ a mystic formula here. I suppose I know better than anyone the prodigious feats of which Wagner was capable, the fifty worlds of strange delights to which only he had wings to soar; and as I am alive today and strong enough to turn even the most questionable and most dangerous things to my own advantage and thus to grow stronger, I declare Wagner to have been the greatest benefactor of my life. The bond which unites us is the fact that we have suffered greater agony even at each other’s hands than most men are able to bear nowadays and this will always keep our names associated in the minds of men. For just as Wagner is merely a misunderstanding among Germans so in truth am I and ever will be. You lack two centuries of psychological and artistic discipline my dear countrymen! But one can never catch up that amount of lost time." From Ecce Homo: "Why I Am So Clever", section 6.