Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Schopenhauer Cure, by Irvin Yalom : Review

About: At one time or another, all of us have wondered what we'd do in the face of death. Suddenly confronted with his own mortality after a routine checkup, distinguished psychotherapist Julius Hertzfeld is forced to reexamine his life and work. Has he really made an enduring difference in the lives of his patients? And what about the patients he's failed? What has happened to them? Now that he is wiser and riper, can he rescue them yet? Reaching beyond the safety of his thriving San Francisco practice, Julius feels compelled to seek out Philip Slate, whom he treated for sex addiction some twenty-three years earlier. At that time, Philip's only means of connecting to humans was through brief sexual interludes with countless women, and Julius's therapy did not change that. He meets with Philip, who claims to have cured himself -- by reading the pessimistic and misanthropic philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

Review: To begin with this is Yalom's first book that I read and the reason is my teacher at the university, she always suggests great books, like “Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” so I followed her advice! She suggested I should start from “The Schopenhauer Cure” and then read Yalom's other books like “When Nietzsche Wept ” and I think she was right, so if you decide to read Yalom start from this book, because you will get a good picture about his writing style, it is an easy read, enjoyable, and reflects group therapy at its best.

First of all there are two very different protagonists in this book, a caring, loving, engaging therapist who is dying, but does not give up living and an ex-patient of his who follows Schopenhauer's every word. Many years ago Julius tried to help Philip but he failed, so after he found out about his illness he decided to contact him again. That leads to a series of group therapy sessions, where the members of the group explore their personalities, their perspectives around self awareness, denial, sexuality, forgiveness and mortality.

Moreover the book is generally divided in chapters about the group therapy and Schopenhauer's life. The writings and the life of Schopenhauer are skilfully woven through the book but the writing remains balanced and interesting. This book is not only a story about some people, but also you can learn about the life and work of one of the greatest philosophers of all times. Many people may not like Schopenhauer, because of his crippling personality and the fact that he thought he was superior than most of the people, but even with his emotional coldness I really liked him. There is one phrase that is written in my mind since I read this book:

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see“.

On the other hand the were some things that I did not like, for starters it was a chapter about Pam's (she is one of the other members in the group) experience in India, where she went to meditate and get away from her problems. Also at some points I found the group therapy sessions a little weird, but after I talked with my teacher, she told me that group therapy is like that, so it may seem a little fake but that is how people talk in therapy.. ** SPOILER Finally at the end the way Julius dies is really quick for me, it happens in 3 lines, that was a sock for me, too sudden. SPOILER **

To sum up “The Schopenhauer Cure” is a unique, well-written book that interweaves philosophy and fiction in a stunning way. I recommend it to all of you because there are a lot you can learn and it is one of those books that change the way that we think.


  1. You should consider that when someone tells you to read a book it isn't a simple suggestion, it is an attempt to change your system of values, in essence it is a really easy and above suspicion way to programm a person as you want him/her to think without him/her even knowing what you are doing. In secret ops training we are trained in that staff :D

  2. i saw that i had two comments in my review from Silvestro and Johnny, two of my team mates, who i thought would never comment in a review like that and i was so exited and yet i was wrong :'( you make fun of me

    @Silvestro: you are right at some point, if you do not consider the crazy part XD

  3. i've never thought of it like that :P


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