Reviews of and Quotes From Dr. Schweitzer's Books

Here is my review of a book about Dr. Schweitzer. All the books I review are in English. Many of them are out of print, but generally can be found by a book search from a good used-book dealer. See The Albert Schweitzer Page for links to my reviews of books written by Dr. Schweitzer as well as other related information.

Albert Schweitzer's Lambarene: A Legacy of Humanity for Our World Today

Written By: Jo Munz and Walter Munz
Edition: Alondra Press, Houston   2010
Published in association with the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, Penobscot Press
Translated by: Patti M. Marxsen
Softcover, 359 pages
ISBN 089725872X

Table of Contents

Before he died, Albert Schweitzer asked two people to continue his legacy at the hospital in Lambarene, Gabon: his daughter, Rhena Schweitzer-Miller, and Walter Munz, who he had appointed as medical director of his hospital in 1964. In Albert Schweitzer's Lambarene, Walter and his wife Jo Munz and a host of other contributers recount their experiences at the hospital during the last few years of Albert Schweitzer's life and the following forty years. A new Schweitzer hospital in Lambarene was finished in 1981, with larger and more modern facilities. The original Schweitzer hospital buildings have been preserved as both a memorial to Schweitzer and as a reminder to Gabonese and other visitors of how the hospital demonstrated both Schweitzer's commitment to his philosophy and that the colonial history of Gabon was not entirely and relentlessly exploitive. This volume provides the definitive account of the last few years of Schweitzer's life and the subsequent development of his hospital. Originally published in German, this English translation has been expanded with a section about Schweitzer's influence and legacy in America.

Quotes from Albert Schweitzer's Lambarene: A Legacy of Humanity for Our World Today:

[From the Introduction by Jo and Walter Munz] "Schweitzer once said, 'Anyone who wishes to act in an enduring way and with justice in Africa must have the heart of a gazelle and the hide of a hippopotamus.' The characteristics of a gazelle are vigilance, courage, the acceptance of risks, and endurance for the long run. Those who have worked at Lambarene know how important those qualities are. On the other hand, to have a thick skin like the tenacious hippopotamus allows one to tolerate all sorts of criticism and attacks. To these vital traits, Jo and I would add the importance of possessing the memory of an elephant as a means of preserving the best of lived experience."

[Quoting Schweitzer in an epigram] "Happy are those who search and discover how they can be of service."

[Describing Albert Schweitzer's last days and death at the age of 90] "These were days filled to the brim: when he [Schweitzer] was not in his office, he could always be found on a construction site. In the evening, at twilight, he read to us and offered commentaries on a Bible passage and played new preludes on his piano. It had already been some years since he had made his own coffin and prepared the simple stone cross destined to mark his grave. He showed me where these were stored. And so, in this way, he approached the end of his life in total serenity. Each day that remained was welcomed with joy. Had he not written that 'joy is to Christianity what perfume is to a flower'? As always, he lived in accordance with his convictions. ...

...We continued [walking] on our path but soon stopped at a place where one could look out over the entire hospital and the village that had developed around it over the years, all compressed between the forest and the river. The doctor gazed on all of this for a long time as if taking stock of all that he had lived through in this place; so many joys and so many sorrows. He then said in his own Alsatian dialect, 'It has its own charm, this hospital, don't you think so'?...To my knowledge, these words of acceptance were the last onces he uttered about his great life's work in Lambarene.

Lost in our thoughts, we made our way back along the path among the seated crowd and returned to his room. He fell asleep soon, never to awaken again. It was arranged that all those who wished might be able to come and pay their last respects. After two days, in the middle of the night between September 4th and 5th of 1965, his heart stopped."

[At a meeting with hospital representatives in Libreville ten days after Schweitzer's death] "President [of Gabon] Leon Mba spoke warmly of his 'friend,' Dr. Schweitzer. He encouraged us to continue and made it clear that he and his government would look favorably on the hospital. In particular, he asked that we never demolish the hospital regardless of the state it was in, for its buildings and installations were the work of 'le Grand Docteur' and bore witness to the life of the Gabonese people. The nation was proud of its adopted son. And if, in the future, we were willing and able to construct a new hospital, it would still be necessary that the current 'hospital village' be cherished and conserved.

President Mba's words remain part of the legacy of the hospital: 'I want our children and grand-children to never forget this work; it is important that they be able to touch it with their eyes and hands, that they know what a man who came from Europe decided to build for us, in our country.'"

[At a meeting of the hospital's Foundation board of directors, apparently during 1981] "At the end of a meeting where the seeds of division seemed to be sprouting, Albert Ndjave-Ndjoy, who always had a few good Gabonese proverbs in his pocket, said, 'In a tornado, the palms and other trees along the Ogooue beat their tops against one another, but down in their roots they embrace one another.' That image is as beautiful as it is accurate.

[On the Inaguration day for the new hospital, January 17, 1981] "...I spoke in turn, expressing my feelings of joy, gratitude, and hope. I recalled the words of wisdom that Schweitzer had spoken already decades ago: Call on your courage to do what is necessary and appropriate in the present moment; and tomorrow, resolve to do again what is necessary and appropriate." [italics in original]

[Quoting Albert Schweitzer. This is how he ended all the Christian services held at his hospital.] "Let us receive the blessing of God; that the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and our mind in Jesus Christ. Amen."

[by Michael Ramharter] "This process of intensified medical research and improved technical and logistical capacity has transformed both the structure and the functioning of the Medical Research Unit [of the current Schweitzer hospital at Lambarene]. Whereas in the early days only a handful of young medical doctors and students were working under the supervision of a senior researcher, the MRU today consists of about 50 people, including biologists, epidemiologists, statisticians, laboratory assistants, pharmacists, information technologists, and about 10-15 medical doctors permanently working on dozens of clinical and experimental research protocols."

"Let us not think of him as someone who sacrificed himself. He was a happy man who lived out his destiny, always alert and interested, always open to others. He had a faith in the power of love and forgiveness as a force that goes beyond the limits of our understanding. Theologians may call this force by the name of God, philosophers see it as the pure and universal will to live.

His essential principles can be grasped in a few words: 'Ethics come from what I feel as a necessity to meet every being who possesses a will to live with the same respect for life that I accord to my own life. ... Such is the fundamental criterion of morality, insofar as it rests on a matter of logic. Good is that which aims to maintain and favor life; bad is that which hinders or destroys life.'" [italics and ellipsis in original]

Table of Contents of Albert Schweitzer's Lambarene: A Legacy of Humanity for Our World Today

Note: Except where noted, chapters by Walter Munz