You can read the chapter where the word was met. And I put a little extract below:

To me the convalescent would it now be suffering and torment to believe in such phantoms: suffering would it now be to me, and humiliation. Thus I speak to backworldsmen. Suffering was it, and impotence - that created all backworlds; and the short madness of happiness, which only the greatest sufferer experienceth. Weariness, which seeketh to get the ultimate one leap, with a death-leap; a poor ignorant weariness, unwilling even to will any longer: that created all gods and backworlds.

There is also a derived word "backworldsmen". I guess the world is author-invented? Could you shed some light on its meaning?

  • 1
    This is vague. Can you give more details? Can you give a quote in context? – Mitch May 22 '12 at 15:15
  • Sorry, added some info. – Andrey Moiseev May 22 '12 at 15:25
  • This question might be more readily answerable at Philosophy(philosophy.stackexchange.org). They would know better the interplay between Nietzsche's intentions, his wordplay, and the English translation. – Mitch May 22 '12 at 16:45

Google does give results for Thus spake Zarathustra backworld. The first one is http://nathanbauman.com/odysseus/?p=2949

The first paragraph of that page says (my emphases):

Zarathustra’s next two speeches in Nietzsche’s book Thus Spake Zarathustra are related in terms of their assertion that the physical world trumps the Otherworld, or, rather, the “backworld” as Del Caro translates the German term Hinterweltlern. The term is very difficult to pin down in English. The footnote to the word in my edition says that it refers to “those who are of, or believe in, a world beyond, a hidden or a back-world, a secret world”; the note also says, rather curiously, that the word has similar connotations to the English word hinterland. I think what is happening is that Zarathustra is saying that those who believe in an Otherworld are being provincial and silly.

This isn't a German-language site so attempting to translate the German Hinterwelt and Hinterweltlern is not going to be easy. "Back-world" and "back-worlds-men" are the literal translations.

But the expression other-worldly does exist in English: "belonging or relating to, or resembling, a world supposedly inhabited after death" [Chambers], or perhaps "a world outside the physical realm."

  • I just found Russian translation of the book, and the translation of the word is no better. As I see, the book is very hard-to-translate because some words are quite ambigious or even neologisms. Thank you for the answer! – Andrey Moiseev May 22 '12 at 15:54

Judging from the context I'm pretty sure "backworld" refers to the afterlife and "backworldsmen" are those who preach and believe in it.


I’m guessing in the book’s context backworldsmen refers to people operating in a world other than the closest approximation to the objective one...


"Backworld" seems to be an American folk-music group, a computer game, etc.

enter image description here

Also, a made-up English word to translate Nietzsche's German word "Hinterweltern".


The German "Hinterweltern" is not in my dictionary. So either Neitzsche made it up or my dictionary is not complete enough. There is a German word "Hinterwäldern", backwoodsmen, and this new word is made by replacing "Wald" woods with "Welt" world.

  • And do you know the meaning of the German word? Or could you guess it? – Andrey Moiseev May 22 '12 at 15:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.