In 1909, sixteen-year-old Alfred Rosenburg is called into his headmaster's office for making anti-Semitic remarks. He is punished by having to memorise passages from the autobiography of Goethe – and is stunned to discover that his idol was a great admirer of the seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza.
Spinoza himself was no stranger to punishment: accused of heresy, he was excommunicated from the Jewish community and banished from the only world he had ever known. Nevertheless, he became one of the most influential philosophers of his age.
Long after graduation, Rosenberg is possessed by the 'Spinoza problem': how could Goethe, the great German poet, have been inspired by a member of a race that Rosenburg considers inferior to his own? A race, that as he develops from anti-Semitic schoolboy to Nazi propagandist, he becomes determined to destroy?
In this brilliant re-creation of the inner worlds of two men separated by 300 years – one dedicated to fashioning a moral philosophy, the other obsessed with the superiority of the Aryan race – internationally bestselling novelist Irvin D. Yalom explores the thin psychological line that separates genius and evil, and the lives of two men who changed the course of history.
'Yalom is one of the most eclectic, wide-ranging, and dazzling writers of our time.' – Jay Parini, author of The Last Station and The Passages of H.M.
'Irvin Yalom is the most significant writer of psychological fiction in the world today.' – Dr Martin Seligman
Format & Editions
March 21, 2012
Scribe Publications (Adult)
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