The Three Worlds of Albert Schweitzer Critical Context - Essay

Robert Payne

Critical Context

Payne is a prolific writer, and many of his books are biographies. He has chosen to write about men who had a momentous influence upon their times, some of whom he both admires and likes, such as Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Sun Yat-sen, Heinrich Schliemann, and Schweitzer. Others, he admires without liking, such as Ivan the Terrible and Vladimir Ilich Lenin. One or two, such as Mao Tse-tung and Hitler, he detests but tries to understand, as it is important to see how they have affected other people and history.

The Three Worlds of Albert Schweitzer is important for young adult literature in part because it has international dimensions. Payne shows that Schweitzer was a European, almost as much French as German. The interaction of Europe with Africa is of great importance in the modern world, and this book elucidates a crucial aspect of that interaction. The young reader should be encouraged to be critical of Payne’s assumptions about Africa, and in so doing will find the book even more valuable.

An accurate scholar, Payne is a generalist, and the book is accessible to most readers. He writes in clear, natural English without jargon or pedantry, so that a literate person can read his books with pleasure. Those who enjoy this book might be advised to look for other biographies by the same author.