LETTERS by Albert Schweitzer


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 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 Hammarskjîld, 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
ISBN: 0-02-607171-1
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1992