Caveats sojourn. Enticed by her audacity and

Caveats : Read over a month and a half ago implying hazy memory. Contains plot spoilers and summary. Also, my first ever review!)An alternative fiction novel by a professor of psychiatry at Stanford, which has this enticing set up of Nietzsche being involved in the advent of psychotherapy along with Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud intrigues most of us to give it a try, doesn’t it? And yes, it doesn’t disappoint.Enter Vienna 1882. The future of the European philosophy is in danger as Nietzsche is suicidal, but stubborn enough to receive or seek help actively. Enter Lou Salome – the powerful lady with whom he just end a love affair, who spurned his love and probably acted as a catalyst to his most fecund period of writing – to rescue. Breur, who is well renowned for his talking cure of the hysterical Anna O. – or Bertha Pappenheim, her real name – receives an impertinent letter from Salome who wants to meet him immediately while he has having a sojourn. Enticed by her audacity and straightforwardness, Breuer gives her a chance, and starts the spiral of tackling the hemicrania and despair of the arrogant Nietzsche, with the torment of not revealing his true pursuits to Nietzsche, who’ll run away at any such revelation. And Bertha? It is revealed the Breuer as well is in despair – entangled in the web of responsibilities of children, a career and guilty of not loving his own wife, Mathilde– and is in a situation similar to Nietzsche. Both men are obsessed with powerful and beautiful women. Salome, ends playing a pivotal role, handling the two men deftly, epitomizing the art of persuasion and audacity. The remainder of the book deals with how the physician become the patient and vice versa, over and over again. The mysteries and the cruxes of analysis and healing via dialogue is shown throughout. The growing relationship between the two men takes you by the heart. It is very realistic; although at some points the book – or the characters, I’d say – tends to get rambling on and on. Most of the book is conversational in nature. The authors calls it a ‘teaching novel’. Concepts of philosophy, psychology, medicine, science and human nature and its inherent weaknesses are in abound. And priceless Nietzsche quotes in the lines between the pages make you delve between the lines and get lost in the myriads of his thoughts.Yalom is not concerned with categorizing mental diseases using DSM-V. The underpinning is that all of us are bothered by the existential and morbid questions. Breuer is typical alpha male in the throes of midlife crises, while Nietzsche is the iconoclastic, emotionally detached intellectual. Both of them learn from each other through a psychoanalytical process they don’t even realize they are involved in. The book had a personal impact on me as I got involved to know at least two people inside out within a matter of two weeks, as happens so in the book. In both the relationships, I can’t but help compare my experiences to what transpired between Josef and Friedrich. One of them introduced me to the book itself. And the other I met soon after finishing the book.A downside is that Yalom’s writing side is not incredibly catchy and at times, the dialog between the two men seems hackneyed and even phony. I guess some readers will also argue parts of the dialogue and the book are a complete waste of time. A part of me can’t help but agree with these notions. I think it is a weakness of character as well in people indulging in psychotherapy – you tend to waste a lot of time on an issue that can be resolved only if you could handle the reins of your own mind. So much for my own hypocrisy, but I am in splits.Another negative point – though which I don’t give much attention to – is that this is a book for a niche audience, for people pursuing philosophy, psychology or at least having some curiosity about the two fields. Perhaps, someone only interested in philosophy won’t like this book a lot. Same goes for people well versed with Nietzsche’s works like Zarathustra, The Gay Science and Human, all too Human. The book portrays how love is the base of all sustained human relationships, how inevitably an antisocial, deliberate outcast Nietzsche can be so heartbroken and mad over Lou Salome and explores the subtle mind games that are played by the protagonists on each other; making the reader fall in love with the honest and intellectual relationship they foster slowly but steadily. You also compare Nietzsche’s nihilistic philosophy with Freud’s claim on the fundamental role of human relationships in life as well. There is some interpretations of dreams as well. The best part the reader can be a novice and not deeply acquainted with Nietzsche’s, Freud’s or Breuer’s writings like me and yet thoroughly enjoy this book and learn from it.The book teaches a lot about handling one’s own insecurities, dealing with existential crisis, depression and suicidal ideation. “A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him”. The icing on the cake is the author’s note at the end of the book, which makes you realise how plausible the plot of the book is. It could have had actually happened! Some of the letters in the text are actually authentic. Yalom has done a laudable job to say the least. A well researched and thought out book. It is a wonderful examination of the birth of a medical profession and an intelligent and deep discourse on however painful our lives maybe – or we think of them – they are worth living and creating meaning. The book makes you stop, think and research on the philosophical ideas presented.The themes the book takes on are universal, the themes that both men address – the meaning of life, fear of aging and death, each person’s place in society, and both solitude and loneliness. It takes great courage to introspect and analyse yourself so deeply, to admit your faults without bias, to acknowledge the lies you often tell yourself, to accept that you are nothing but a grain of sand; and in spite of this negative portrait of reality – to live this live in a way that you’d be obliged to live it thousand times over (The idea of eternal recurrence), to accept your fate (Amor fati), to learn to love and live truly, to not be swayed away by the herd, self-doubt, the comfort zone, to dream and to achieve, to contribute to society. To live and let live and help live. Be prepared to get inspired by despair