Once more and many times more we are trying to divert the attention of ardent men from the nice and pretty illusion inherited from the olden days toward existence, horrible and resounding.
Whenever the leaders of the crowds turn right, we turn left; when they point to a goal, we turn our backs; whatever they warn us against we hurry toward.
The world is crammed to suffocation. On every stone man has put the brand of his cleverness. Every word is leased or invested. What can man do for salvation but give up everything and flee? What but draw a dividing line between yesterday and today?
This is the great task of our time – the only one worth living and dying for. Not the slightest contempt for the great past is involved in this. We want something else. We do not want to live as carefree heirs or to live on the past. Even if we wanted to live like that, we could not. The inheritance is used up, and substitutes are making the world base.
Therefore we venture forth into new fields, and we are shocked to find that everything is still untrodden, unspoken, uncultivated, unexplored. The world lies virginal before us; our steps are shaky. If we dare to walk, we must cut the umbilical cord that ties us to our maternal past.
The world is giving birth to a new time; there is only one question: has the time now come to separate ourselves from the old world? Are we ready for the vita nuova? This is the terrifying question of our age. It is the question that will dominate this book. Everything in this volume is related to this question and to nothing else. By it alone should we measure its form and its value.
Published in 1914