A vivid, shrewd, and above all engrossing exploration of Friedrich Nietzsche's last works and days in Switzerland and Italy. Nietzsche's life as a writer began in the early 1870s and lasted only until 1888. In that final year the long-term effects of syphilis and perhaps an inherited neurological condition robbed him of his faculties, leaving him demented, then physically incapacitated and completely dependent on his unscrupulous sister until his death in 1900. Much of this last productive year was spent in the Piedmontese city of Turin, where Nietzsche lived frugally as a lodger in the home of an Italian family. Eventually, he collapsed in the street. Chamberlain--a British journalist, contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, and author of several books, of which this is the first to appear in the US--takes for her theme this painful last year. Her book is part biography, for it looks at the philosopher's intimate personal life--his preoccupation with the Wagners, his sexual failures and frustrations, his money worries and loneliness, even his close attention to diet--and part cool intellectual inquiry. She offers thoughtful and often original commentary on the four books that Nietzsche wrote during 1888 (among them Ecce Homo and Twilight of the Idols) and deftly interweaves his philosophical with his personal concerns. But above all, Chamberlain offers a tightly focused and elegantly written book whose prose style itself reflects and embodies Nietzsche's own views about the interpenetration of language and thinking. It is a significant accomplishment. Just when you thought Nietzsche had been swallowed whole by academe, along comes a writer who returns him to the public life of the mind. It is an event to be savored.