Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

InOut of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography, Albert Schweitzer creates a tapestry of ideas. In the background are glimpses of events in his early adult life, mainly from the ages of twenty-three to fifty-five. In the foreground are detailed explanations of his scholarly interests in religion, philosophy, and music. Unlike autobiographies that focus mainly on a chronological recital of events in an individual’s life, Out of My Life and Thought presents events as an organizing framework for revealing Schweitzer’s simultaneous intellectual pursuits.

In the first chapter, Schweitzer gives a condensed account of his family and early schooling. The fact that both his maternal grandfather and father were pastors indicates the roots for Schweitzer’s interest in theology, and the fact that his paternal grandfather and three granduncles had been organists gives a source for Schweitzer’s musical ability. His identity as a musical child prodigy is evident from the five-year-old Schweitzer’s first playing on his grandfather’s piano, his beginning organ instruction as an eight-year-old, and his first public organ performance in Günsbach when he was nine years old.

In the first half of the autobiography, Schweitzer discusses his separate scholarly studies in theology, philosophy, and music that are intertwined in his search for truth. At the age of twenty-one, he resolved to devote himself to his studies until the age of...

(The entire section is 478 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Sources for Further Study

Cousins, Norman. Albert Schweitzer’s Mission: Healing and Peace. New York: Norton, 1985. Part 1 is an adaptation of Cousins’s Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné (1960) and provides a sensitive and sympathetic portrait based on a visit Cousins made to the jungle hospital; part 2 contains previously unpublished correspondence involving Schweitzer, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dwight Eisenhower, Nikita Krushchev, John F. Kennedy, and Cousins, centering on Schweitzer’s effort to awaken world consciousness to the catastrophic dangers of nuclear war.

Joy, Charles R., ed. Albert Schweitzer: An Anthology. 1947. Enlarged ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1956. Joy has edited an excellent and moving anthology drawn from Schweitzer’s most effective writings. It includes a chronological summary of Schweitzer’s life (to 1956) and a bibliography.

Schweitzer, Albert. Civilization and Ethics. Part 2 of The Philosophy of Civilization. Translated by C. T. Campion. New York: Macmillan, 1929. The central spiritual and ethical philosophy is here developed at length.

Schweitzer, Albert. On the Edge of the Primeval Forest. Published with The Forest Hospital at Lambaréné. Translated by C. T. Campion. New York: Macmillan, 1948. Schweitzer’s African reminiscences, dealing in part with the problems of colonization among primitive peoples.

Schweitzer, Albert. The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. Translated by W. Montgomery. New York: Macmillan, 1945. Insisting on Jesus’ messianic worldview, Schweitzer calls attention to his religion of love.