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on 11 May 2009
Let me say this first, this book is not for the young reader; it is quite heavy on the philosophy front. However, having read Thus Spoke Zarathustra, this book makes Nietzsche's ideas much more accessible than the original source.

The story traces the origins of psychoanalisis as we follow Josef Breuer's treatment of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche assisted by his young friend and protegé, Sigmund Freud.

Alas, Nietzsche is reluctant to enter into medical care, the only way for treatment to take place is an unusual arrangement, Breuer will treat Nietzsche's illness and in exchange, Nietzsche will treat Breuer's obsession with a former patient through philosophical discourse.

I read this book during a time in my life when all I had were questions. Surprisingly, the book proved to be a great insight into Nietzsche's even to this day controversial way of thinking, but not for that less relevant or valid, and a great help to figure things out for myself.

A recommended reading.
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on 31 January 2016
An extraordinary novel which gives a great understanding of the psychological implications- the sorrow and physical pain - in Nietzsche's radical philosophical journey. Without a relatable psychology, phylosophy is just a sterile corollary of maxims, and without the big picture of philosophy, psychology is a just a way to isolate one's lonliness and sickness from a world a lonly and sick people.
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on 29 November 1998
I am deeply influenced by the writer's ability and power to give a detailed insight on existential psychotheraphy by focusing on two different,yet in a way similar characters. It is one of the best books I have ever read and led me to philosophy through psychology.No fiction book could be this much informative about one's self. Brilliant... All through the pages I felt like I approached to Nietzsche's heart more...
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on 11 January 2016
It is an excellent book and well worth reading, but shame about the printing. Some pages have faded lines and some pages like the AFTERWORD are totally faded. This book shouldn't be sold it is not up the the saturated of quality control. I needed it for a student who was travelling and there wasn't enough time to return it, but very disappointed with the seller. Nina
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on 24 September 2014
I have to join all the readers who already gave a very positive review of this book. It is a special read, very intelligent written. It unites Psychology with history & has a wonderful writing style. It is a unique character study, and it succeeds to combine facts and phantasy in terms of history.
It feels as you would start your own little journey back in those times, it is all that vivid. The same goes for the characters of the book. They are sketched in such fine nuances so you just have to be touched deeply by them. The movie made after the book even made me cry.
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on 23 August 2013
What if Josef Breuer, one of the early exponents of talk therapy (or psychoanalysis) was able to engage with Friederich Nietzsche? Set this imagined relationship in nineteenth century Vienna, throw in a young medical doctor in training, Sigmund Freud. Mix in philosophy, intellectual discussion and dream sequences, treatment and an array of interesting characters. The result is a very European novel asking the reader to engage in the thought process as the narrative and plot builds in layers as each protagonist's motivation and morality is exposed. Flawed men of their period but in Josef Breur a humanist of outstanding ability. Mr Yalom is a gifted writer and I will certainly read more by him. Four stars? Because there were parts of the novel that became a treatise for psychoanalysis and without the insight of its malignancy. For example it was another tool where misogyny appears to be un unquestioned premise of treatment.
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on 22 July 1999
This is a work that is not just a fiction but a work that engages your mind - you are in therapy in one respect , but you engauge a guy like the philosopher at his knees who refuses to be helped and the therapist who struggles to help him. It is dramatic, therapeutic reading. The dynamics of therapy is enlivened here - the critical activity of what therapy should be about - as well as the ethical - moral persuit of the therapist taking care of a patient. Great reading and guidance for both sides .... It is easyly readable - not much jargon and you don't have to love or hate Nietzsche - just enjoy... P.S. A different title to this work would have given it greater popularity - the name of the philosopher frightens so many people - but he has written to be read in the year 2000 ...
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on 29 March 2011
This book, with much contrived plot and many factual errors, fails as a portrayal of Nietzsche's complex, torn by inner contradictions personality. Although Nietzsche was a passionate and vulnerable human being, he was also extraordinarily daring man who thrived on challenge and provocation. A far cry from Nietzsche - the `weeping willow' and the wimp - portrayed by Yalom. Also, unlike Yalom, Nietzsche was a genius!
Has the author ever read any of Nietzsche's works? If so, it doesn't show.
Breuer is portrayed as a concrete thinker(much in accordance with Freudian tradition), lusting after his female patient, and lost in some vague identity crisis, sprinkled with much weeping. It all reads rather like some lachrymose soap-opera! Perhaps, the only believable character is Lou Salomé, that decadent femme fatale who collected geniuses and `ate them like air' (to use Sylvia Plath's imagery).
In this 'novel', Yalom shows himself as a mediocre novelist, a mediocre psychoanalyst and a mediocre philosopher -- three for the price of one! Ultimately, it's far more rewarding to read Strindberg, Hesse, Mann, Camus or Stephan Zweig. Or just listen to Mahler.
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on 26 July 2002
Philosophical niceties aside the encounter between Breuer and Nietzsche opens the way for a fascinating exchange of ideas, and for that alone is well worth reading; however, the dialogue is wooden and conveys little in the way of human contact: you get the feeling the characters are quoting passages from books or academic papers at each other. As a result the story is always secondary and the novel never comes alive. The author never seems to be entirely comfortable with his material. In fact he seems slightly in awe of his characters and simply doesn't give either them or the story the space to develop.
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on 27 February 2011
When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom is not the kind of novel I normally read. It was selected for reading by a book reading group. It turned out to be a reading that I enjoyed but above all I was intrigued by the novel.

The novel belongs to that ever more emerging genre known as faction - defined by The Concise Oxford Dictionary as: "a book, film, etc. using real events as the basis for a fictional narrative or dramatization." Think of most of those awful bio-pictures that are churned out by Hollywood and you have got the picture. However, When Nietzsche Wept is certainly not awful. Instead, what the reader gets from Yalom is an intriguing psychological thriller, and a novel of ideas delineated through two real characters namely Josef Breuer and Friedrich Nietzsche.

The novel is set in late nineteenth century Vienna, specifically focusing on the year 1882. The action takes place against a backdrop of a fin de siecle that saw the likes of not just the two protagonists but also Sigmund Frued among others. It was a period that saw significant development in medicine, the emergence of psychoanalysis and a new moral philosophy that focused on the individual. In the novel, Yalom invest his two main characters with a common facet namely two middle aged men obsessed with a much younger woman. In Nietzsche's case it Lou Salome and for Breuer it is Bertha Pappenheim. I suppose inevitably this obsession leads both men to suffer angst. Lou Salome from a sense of guilt or fulfilling her own desire meets the physician Breuer and comes up with a scheme to refer Nietzsche to him for treatment. Breuer and Nietzsche eventually meet and through a long process of negotiation and connivance a tacit agreement is reached that Breuer will treat Nietzsche's ailments but the table is turned and Nietzsche finds himself counselling Breuer. This sets the scene for a very good psychological or preferably intellectual thriller.

Out of this conundrum, Yalom's novel presents a world of intrigue, fascinating characters and multi-layered themes. Just to mention some of the obvious themes to be found in the novel. It is about friendship, the methodological relationship between patient and doctor, the frailty and vulnerability of human beings, the development of medicine and psychoanalysis, and above all it delineates Nietzsche's individual moral philosophy.

Along with Nietzsche, Breuer and Freud, Yalom's novel is peopled with, or at least there is discussion of, geniuses such as Brahams, Bruckner, Wittgenstein, and Wagner. However, it must be said that female characters are not well presented in this novel they merely act as antagonist providing a means for the plot to progress. Yalom's characters function in a world of change and invention yet ironically in some ways they still remain in a world averse to change and bridled by old conventions. Lou Salome's adversity to marriage and her acknowledgement of what Viennese society would think of the menage a trios between her Paul Ree and Nietzsche is testimony to the tension between old and new society.

What makes When Nietzsche Wept outstanding is the relationship between Nietzsche and Breuer. This relationship provides a means for discussing some of Nietzsche's ideas. Here are two examples, Nietzsche's view of truth: "Truth is arrived at through disbelief and skepticism, not through a child like wishing something was so" and "Dying is hard. I've always felt the final reward of the dead is to die no more." I found discussion of such ideas stimulating and thought provoking.

Having said that, on a downside, at times in the novel, reading about such intellectual ideas became sluggish. In other words, the narrative felt stuck as in places Yalom seems to have had difficulties in progressing the discussion of ideas between Breuer and Nietzsche.

Yalom's novel is not a highly imaginative piece of fiction after all it is faction. Nonetheless it is a well conceived novel with a well delivered story. For a novel that I would not normally read it nonetheless turned out to be a good and worthwhile read.
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