Written By: Joseph Gollomb Reviewed Edition: The Vanguard Press, Inc. 1949 Hardcover, 249 Pages No ISBN Shown Quotes Table of Contents
I get the feeling this biography was written for youths and young adults. It contains no footnotes or other attempts to justify its facts. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable and worthwhile read. The author avoids the modern tendency to reconstruct Schweitzer's precise thoughts and emotions, but instead relies on facts, quotes and circumstances to reveal Schweitzer's life. Schweitzer's philosophy and theology are not explored in any depth, but his character is emphasized at every opportunity.
One particularly interesting feature is the book's descriptions of Schweitzer's concerns for Nazi Germany, and the effect World War II had on his hospital.
[After announcing his intention to become a missionary and medical doctor in Africa...]
"[Schweitzer] found that hardest of all was to dispel the worries of his family. His parents knew all about the Gabon country, and he could offer them no assurance that their fears for him were groundless.
He was glad when his medical course began.
First-year students at the Strasbourg University were amazed to see the recent head of one of its colleges sitting among them, a beginner like themselves."
[After describing Schweitzer's early frustrations in Africa and fears for the coming first World War]
"It all came closing in on him until the man who had always met his problems head-on found that for at least a breathing spell he simply had to turn away from it all.
There was only one escape for him that night. Schweitzer had not touched the piano that his friends of the Paris Bach Society had given him. It was not lack of time that had kept Schweitzer from it. If one must cut off a beloved past, it is best to make a clean cut of it, and Schweitzer had determined to let his fingers lose touch with music. Any reminder of their old skill would only bring pain without hope of relief. Now he felt that nothing of the past could bring such pain as did the present, and if music could help him forget it for the time being he was willing to pay the price.
He went to the piano, raised the lid, sat down and played.
For the first time since creation the jungle about him heard Bach performed by a master, and if Bach's music, as Schweitzer has said, is an act of worship, then there must have been something of prayer in the playing."
[After the hospital was closed during World War I because Schweitzer was a German citizen in French Equatorial Africa:]
"His writing was interrupted by a native who came with a message from the regional French administrator. The note was so unimportant that Schweitzer wondered why the administrator had taken the trouble to send it. Then he saw the messenger was badly ailing, and Schweitzer knew why he had been sent. It was the Frenchman's way of getting Schweitzer to do what had been officially forbidden him.
The messenger stayed down at Lambarene until he was cured.
Many similar notes followed, until the hospital resumed its old look and activity."
"In the same summer  he produced a little book in what must be a speed record hard to beat. He was passing through Zurich and between trains stopped off to visit a friend, Dr. Oscar Pfister, a psychoanalyst. Schweitzer wanted to stretch out and rest, and Dr. Pfister wanted some material for an analysis of the remarkable man. He told Schweitzer to relax on the couch, but while he did so, to tell as much as he could of his childhood and youth.
Dr. Pfister took down in shorthand everything Schweitzer said. A few hours later Schweitzer caught his train. But his spontaneous recital of his early days came out as a book, Schweitzer's Memoirs of Childhood and Youth."
[During the fall of 1928 or 1929, Schweitzer had a house built in Gunsbach, Alsace.] "In hunting for a location for his new home Schweitzer showed a degree of choosiness that mystified some of his friends. There was no lack of pleasant sites for homes in Gunsbach, and the one Schweitzer finally chose did not seem strikingly superior to those he had turned down. ... But an intimate friend finally asked him why he had chosen that particular site for his guest house at Gunsbach. The answer was shocking. 'I want to build here,' Schweitzer said, 'because the house will be under the hillside where the guns of the next war will not reach it.'" [They didn't.]
[During World War II, Gabon saw some fierce fighting.]
"Battles broke out between Hitler's collaborationists and the Free French, in the air and on the ground. They raged for two months, during October and November, 1940, and Lambarene was in the thick of it. Bullets came so near the hospital that Schweitzer put up shields of corrugated iron on the side facing the town.
But even in the heat of battle, both sides came to one agreement.
Schweitzer's hospital was not to be touched.
...The Free French won, and the hospital took down its corrugated iron shields."
There are 40 numbered but unnamed chapters.
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