WHEN NIETZSCHE WEPT by Irvin D. Yalom
Kirkus Star

WHEN NIETZSCHE WEPT

KIRKUS REVIEW

Freud's mentor, Josef Breuer, attempts to cure Friedrich Nietzsche of suicidal despair in the clinics, cemeteries, and coffeehouses of 19th-century Vienna--in this first novel by the author of the bestselling Love's Executioner: an entertaining and highly original tale of an uncompromising friendship between two brilliant men. Distinguished physician, renowned scientist, beloved husband and father, Josef Breuer finds himself at 40 simultaneously at the crest of his professional life and near the bottom of a pit of incomprehensible despair. Cursed with nightmares, insomnia, and obsessive sexual fantasies of his former patient, Anna O. (whom he cured, miraculously if temporarily, through a new technique called "talk therapy"), Breuer welcomes the distraction when the imperious future psychoanalyst Lou SalomÇ demands that he use talk therapy to cure the suicidal depression of her friend, Friedrich Nietzsche. Because the poverty-ridden, unknown philosopher is too proud to accept spiritual help from anyone, Breuer must somehow cure the younger man without his knowledge--but the physician welcomes the challenge, and soon solves it by posing as the patient himself and begging Nietzsche's help in relieving his own existential pain. Unable to refuse, dour Nietzsche agrees to embark on a month of daily "talks" with the physician. The ensuing dialogue between a man of the world and an unworldly man becomes increasingly compelling as first Breuer, then Nietzsche, uncovers his forgotten past and delves deep into his own and the other's unconscious desires and fears. Throughout, Yalom's evocation of Breuer imprisoned in a classic midlife crisis, Nietzsche stymied by his own pride, loneliness, and terror, Lou Salomé cracking her feminist whip, and young Sigmund Freud eagerly following each conversation's twists and turns make for a stimulating dip into the pools of 19th-century philosophy, psychology, and culture. A delectable fantasy--in which the sole disappointment is that it didn't actually occur.

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1992
ISBN: 0062009303
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992




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