Albert Schweitzer, then in his eighties, comes across as intellectually alert, tireless, human, and kindly. Above all, he is absolutely dedicated to his patients at the somewhat primitive hospital he founded after leaving a position as head of a European seminary. Conversations with the doctor and his staff, as Cousins reports them, create the impression of a profoundly humanitarian but paternalistic leader, still of towering intellectual ability. Despite his self-imposed, demanding work schedule and the remoteness of his hospital, Schweitzer showed himself keenly aware of world developments and willing, though reluctant, to shape them. Before Cousins left Lambarene, Schweitzer agreed not only to permit copying of manuscripts but also offered to lend his support to the effort to end atmospheric nuclear testing and the arms race.
The letters reveal the tact and political sensitivity he displayed, as the United States under Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kennedy and the Soviet Union under Khrushchev progressed toward a test-ban agreement. Schweitzer’s letters reflect his view of the centrality of Europe and his impatience with political obstacles. Other letters clarify the attitudes of world leaders as they grappled with the complex issues involved, attitudes incorporating good will, sincerity, and a degree of wisdom.
Above all, however, the book creates a positive picture of Schweitzer as a complex genius motivated to serve his fellow man to the greatest possible extent.