Monday, February 13, 2006

The Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin Yalom

The Schopenhauer Cure is a wide-ranging and exhilarating exploration of psychotherapy, philosophy, and humanity.

The plot centers on Julius Hertzfeld, a successful therapist in San Francisco, who is shocked to learn that he suffers from terminal cancer. Moved to reassess his life's work, he contacts Philip Slate, a former patient who he was unable to cure of sex addition.

Much to Julius's surprise, Philip has become a philosophical counselor and requests that Julius provide him with the supervisory hours he needs to obtain a license to practice. In return, Philip offers to tutor Julius in the work of Schopenhauer. Eventually they strike a bargain: Julius agrees to supervise Philip, provided that Philip first joins his therapy group. What follows is Philip's entrance into the weekly therapy group and a gripping exploration of loss, suffering, sexual desire, death, and the search for meaning.

Throughout the novel, Yalom weaves Schopenhauer's life and work into the narrative. In addition, a parallel biographical account of Schopenhauer's life sheds light on the philosopher's intellectual triumphs and emotional difficulties.

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