Written By: Norman Cousins Reviewed Edition: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1960 Hardcover, 254 Pages No ISBN Shown Quotes Table of Contents
This is a well-written description of Dr. Schweitzer and the hospital at Lambarene in 1957. It is perhaps not the best book to read when beginning to learn about Dr. Schweitzer, as it assumes the reader is already at least somewhat familiar with Schweitzer and his work. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating look at what it really takes to run a hospital in the middle of Africa, with the only access via the Ogowe river and little in the way of supplies. It appears to be force of Schweitzer's personality which gets things done. Schweitzer was required to perform or supervise the most mundance of tasks. This was a theologian who knew something about hard work and hard lives.
The book is out of print, but must have been a fairly good seller because it is still commonly found on the shelves of good used book stores.
[Clara Urquhart, a Schweitzer supporter, speaking to Cousins]
"'Now,' she said, 'comes the most important matter of all. You've got to promise that you won't be disillusioned.'
'You mean a hospital ward without bedsheets, lack of sanitation, and all that sort of thing?' I said. 'Please don't let it worry you; I know all about it. It was the kind of argument that seemed to me all along to miss the main point about Schweitzer.'
'There's something more than that,' she replied. 'I'm talking about Schweitzer himself.'
This startled me. 'Why is there any danger that I or anyone else would be disillusioned about Schweitzer?'
'Some people are. They come to Lambarene with an image of a sort of sweet saintly St. Francis feeding the birds and they see instead a driving man fighting the jungle and African lethargy and they do not remain for a sufficiently long period to see or sense the goodness and saintliness underneath. They go away feeling hurt and unhappy.'"
"[Cousins] asked where the manuscript of The Kingdom of God was.
'Right here in a trunk at the hospital,' [Schweitzer] said.
'When will The Kingdom of God be ready for publication?'
'As well as a hen exactly when she expects to produce her egg. I do not know. There are so many things for me to do here at the Hospital. Everything is changing. Now that the Africans have all become French citizens, our whole relationship to the patients is different. Now there are elaborate forms to be filled out for the administration. Each African who wants workman's compensation has to have detailed information supplied about him.
Formerly, I would just dash off a short note, sign my name to it, and that was that. Now it's endless. And if I say that a patient has been treated and is ready to go back to work, he may become outraged for he would like to stay away from his job yet get paid for it. Little by little, all the joy is going out of our work.'"
"Not infrequently, [Schweitzer's] seeming brusqueness was leavened with humor. When Adlai Stevenson visited Lambarene he was escorted on a tour around the Hospital by the Doctor. The former presidential candidate noticed a large mosquito alighting on Dr. Schweitzer's arm and promptly swatted it.
'You shouldn't have done that,' the Doctor said sharply. 'That was my mosquito. Besides, it wasn't necessary to call out the Sixth Fleet to deal with him.'
Clara [Urquhart, a Schweitzer supporter] gave me another illustration of the fact that his sternness knew no color lines. Once, he became particularly exasperated at an African who was putting boards of lumber in the wrong place. He mumbled that he could almost slap the man. Clara, who was standing nearby, was shocked and said so to the Doctor.
'Well, Clara,' he said, 'I don't think I am going to slap him. But if I should do so, I want you to close your eyes and imagine that I am slapping a white man. In that case, it will probably be all right with you.'"
[Quoting Dr. Schweitzer's Second Statement on Nuclear War, Radio Oslo, 1958] "At this stage we have the choice of two risks. The one consists in continuing the mad atomic arms race with its danger of unavoidable atomic war in the near future. The other is the renunciation of nuclear weapons, and the hope that America and the Soviet Union, and the peoples associated with them, will manage to live in peace. The first holds no hope of a prosperous future; the second does. We must risk the second."
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