When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom

Indy refused to face his past sins...
Indy refused to face his past sins...


When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom


You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?


                                              Friedrich Nietzsche

                                           Thus Spake Zarathustra



When Nietzsche Wept is a novel written by psychiatrist Irvin D. Yalom (Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University), and it weaves together a story of psychology, philosophy, Nietzsche, and fin-de-siècle Vienna, all fascinating subjects unto themselves. 


Yalom’s colorful descriptions drop you right into the Vienna of 1882 when Franz Joseph I was emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, psychotherapy was just being discovered, and Freud was a 26-year-old medical student.


In the novel, the bewitching Lou Salomé persuades Doctor Josef Breuer to take Nietzsche on as a patient to cure his despair. “The future of German philosophy hangs in the balance,” she writes.


Breuer manages to do so, and an interesting relationship develops between him and Nietzsche, one that he often discusses with young Freud. And this is what I liked most about the novel, all the psychological and philosophical conversations between the characters, their observations and questions about human nature.


Josef Breuer, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth, Breuer’s patient Anna O., Lou Salomé, Breuer’s wife Mathilde and their five children, Paul Rée—they all existed, although Breuer and Nietzsche never actually met in real life, so the novel is a blend of fact and fiction. Yalom also adds a note at the back of the book detailing which is which.


I devoured this story, but I didn’t literally chew on the book. That was Indy when he was still a puppy and was developing a taste for literature.


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