Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné Critical Essays

Norman Cousins


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Cousins is mainly known as a writer and editor of works for adults, rather than for young adults, but adults and young adults alike have found Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné worthwhile reading. Cousins presents Schweitzer’s ideas within the context of the visit, and he writes about the visit simply. The vocabulary he uses here is limited, his sentences and paragraphs are short, and his book is richly illustrated with photographs.

In his author’s note, Cousins writes that the “book is in the nature of a personal appreciation. It does not seek to be either an historical analysis of an eminent contemporary or a detailed biographical treatment.” As a “personal appreciation,” the book is a combined biography and autobiography. At the beginning of the visit, Cousins understands Schweitzer’s power as a symbol but does not understand Schweitzer’s motivation. In the second paragraph of the book, Cousins writes, “I doubt whether I shall ever forget my shock and disbelief when, the first evening of my visit, I saw him approach the upright,” since the piano was so decrepit and Schweitzer was a world-famous musician.

While he lives at the hospital, caught up in its richness of life and experience, Cousins grows to understand Schweitzer’s selflessness. Cousins finds events such as the Nativity play acted and sung by the lepers at the hospital deeply moving, and he realizes that the lepers have this experience and this hospital...

(The entire section is 454 words.)