Customer Review

105 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectually Challenging and Personally Meaningful, 30 Nov. 2002
This review is from: When Nietzsche Wept: A Novel of Obsession (Paperback)
This is one of the most intellectually stimulating, personally relevant, important books I have ever read. What a rare treat Yalom has given the world. That being said, this book may not be for everyone (but what is?). In many ways, I feel as if this novel was written just for me, and I feel sure that many other readers likewise come away feeling the book was written especially for them. Do you have to know Nietzsche in order to enjoy this book? You do not, but it will certainly appeal to you more if you do. I approached this book purely as a Nietzsche admirer, and I worried that my favorite philosopher might be portrayed poorly or unacceptably in its pages. In fact, he was not. No one can say whether this fictional treatment of Nietzsche is a true depiction of this great man, but it really does not matter. The importance of this book comes not through the descriptions of its characters, but from the meaning you as an individual take from its themes. These themes are grand and universal, the themes that Nietzsche addressed in his factual life--the meaning of life, fear of aging and death, each person's place in society, and both aloneness and loneliness. Everyone knows these themes, the emotions they stir up, the doubts they employ as daily hurdles on the living of one's life, the truly cosmic loneliness that each individual knows and combats at some point or points in his/her life. Not everyone can face these challenges or even acknowledge them; those who cannot will do well to stay away from this book.
What a joy it is to read a truly intellectually challenging work in these modern times. Don't read this book to be entertained. Read this book to seek understanding of life and your place in it. I cannot stress enough how personal the message of this book seems to be. In the final pages, Nietzsche revealed to Dr. Breuer his one great fear, and that fear was my own great fear, expressed in words that described it better than I ever could. I had to put the book down momentarily and just say "My God . . ." That gave this book incredible meaning for me. I should say that I did not come away overjoyed or overly burdened from the experience of finishing the book, but I certainly came away more in tune with my own thoughts and my own philosophy, challenged to remain steadfast in my own intellectual thoughts and pursuits, and buoyed (yet not elated) to know that at least one other person on earth has knowledge of the intellectual and emotional struggles that I sometimes resigned myself to believe were solely my own.
Please, do not start reading this book unless and until you are ready to devote yourself to it and to yourself. The first few chapters are not gripping and do not really offer a visionary glimpse of the meaning and magic of the book. The early conversations, particularly between Nietzsche and Breuer, are sometimes rather stilted and "phony." Do not be discouraged in the early stages of the read because intellectual stimulation and personal challenge await you soon thereafter, and I believe that you will find yourself hard pressed to stop reading until the very end. More importantly, the book will remain with you even after you have placed it back on the shelf. That is the greatest praise that a novel can be given.
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