LETTERS: 1905-1965 by Albert Schweitzer
Kirkus Star

LETTERS: 1905-1965

Email this review


The first collection in English of Schweitzer letters proves to be a smashing introduction to the life and work of the nonagenarian polymath (1875-1965). Schweitzer became a household name as a Bach scholar, theologian, medical missionary, and peace activist (he won the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize). All four careers lend shape to these letters--some printed in their entirety, most abridged--chosen for their ability to reveal the ""context of Schweitzer's life and the directions he moved in."" Understandably, the letters often center on their author's exhaustion, a state matched only by his enthusiasm. The very first entry locates in religion the source of Schweitzer's remarkable labors (""I have kept from marrying so that...I may be completely free to serve our Lord""); this spiritual passion kept him active until the end, as indicated by the very last words of his last letter: ""I am still interested in everything concerning Bach."" In between, he wrote, always by hand, to hundreds of correspondents, including Martin Buber (""I want you to know that I have not forgotten you""), Romain Rolland, Max Planck, Albert Einstein (""Who would ever have thought that I, a decent theologian, would turn into a gambler and speculator in order to keep the hospital afloat?""), Thornton Wilder, Dag HammarskjÖld, Hermann Hesse (""growing flowers is impossible because of the freely grazing hospital goats""), Bertrand Russell, and John F. Kennedy (""I am writing to congratulate you and to thank you for having the vision and courage to initiate a policy of world peace""). As these excerpts hint, the letters are invariably charming, self-disclosing, and abuzz with moral intention. A priceless addition to the Schweitzer legacy; a posthumous gift to the world from a man who made every second count.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Macmillan