The Spinoza Problem
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The Spinoza Problem

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,515 ratings  ·  162 reviews
When sixteen-year-old Alfred Rosenberg is called into his headmaster’s office for anti-Semitic remarks he made during a school speech, he is forced, as punishment, to memorize passages about Spinoza from the autobiography of the German poet Goethe. Rosenberg is stunned to discover that Goethe, his idol, was a great admirer of the Jewish seventeenth-century philosopher Baru...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Basic Books (first published December 1st 2011)
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This is not my first book by Yalom and it will definitely not be the last. I love his style – it's fluid, it molds on every type of subject and it somehow incorporates scientific or historical information in such a way that you don't even realize anymore which is fact and which is fiction. I learned a lot from his books and he is a man to be listened to when it comes to psychological problems or philosophic questions about life. Unlike us, the rest of the human population that reads his books, t...more
It's been years since I've read any Spinoza, but that wasn't a problem here - Yalom's historical faction includes long passages where Spinoza himself explains his rational process. Told in alternating chapters, we meet Spinoza at the time of his excommunication (cherem) from the Sephardic community in Amesterdam and a young Alfred Rosenberg, ultimately Hitler's publisher and the man who stole Jewish (and other) artworks for the Reich.

So, what is the Spinoza problem? Spinoza was a Jew of Portuges...more

I learned of this author through one of my friends on Goodreads. Yalom is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford, a practicing psychiatrist, and an author of nonfiction as well as novels. The Spinoza Problem is a philosophical novel and I chose to read it as an introduction to Yalom because I admire Spinoza.

I have mentioned before, in my ranting about books and reading, my life long difficulties with studying philosophy. My only real success in this endeavor came when I read The Story of Philosop...more
Siamo uomini o spugne?

Siamo in Estonia. L’adolescente Alfred Rosenberg è visibilmente sconvolto. Per due ragioni: una, perché è stato aspramente rimproverato dal preside ebreo , a cui è giunta notizia di un suo discorso antisemita, l’altra perché ha scoperto che Goethe, il sommo vate tedesco, nutre profonda ammirazione per Spinoza, filosofo ebreo del ‘600. Per il piccolo Rosenberg, venire a capo di questo Cubo di Rubik, e scoprire come le parole di Spinoza possano essere state “sedativo” per le...more
I picked this up because my mother's book club had their last meeting centered around it. She said it was a pleasant read with a nice flow so I thought I'd give it a go for a light summer read, one that wasn't the typical YA that I go for when I don't want to overcomplicate things.

Yalom is known to write novels strongly rooted in psychoanalysis, obviously originating from his background as a psychologist. The techniques used in psychoanalysis are thus easily detectable in The Spinoza Problem, es...more
Novamente Irvin Yalom utiliza personagens e alguns fatos reais ocorridos com eles para traçar um perfil psicanalítico de cada um. O livro traz de maneira simples a filosofia de Spinoza (sem os axiomas de Ética). Para entender a força da filosofia de Spinoza extremamente moderna para sua época, Irvin narra os hábitos do século 17, principalmente em Amsterdam, refúgio dos judeus que fugiram da Inquisição.

Ao mesmo tempo, o autor apresenta aquele por detrás do desenvolvimento da filosofia nazista: A...more
I find Yalom's ability to breath new life into understanding past philosophers remarkable. While I enjoyed "When Nietzsche Wept" far more, it stems more from the fact that I find Nietzsche more interesting then Spinoza. His introduction of therapists to create fictional dialogue to flesh out the thoughts of different protagonists is believable and efficient.

For this particular book, his blending of Nazi racism and Spinoza's thought was fascinating. While this novel cannot, nor I imagine claim t...more

İşte Irvin Yalom'a hayran olma sebeplerinden biri daha! Yalom, her zamanki tarzıyla tarihi kişilikleri bir araya getiriyor, tarihi gerçekliklerle kurmacayı müthiş bir beceriyle harmanlıyor ve bunu yaparken de işin içine felsefeyi, psikolojiyi, psikanalizi ustaca okuyor. Siz de notlar alarak, düşünerek ve geçmişin ve bugünün toplumunu, siyasetini, insanlarını sorgulayarak metni hayranlıkla okuyorsunuz.

İnsan sık aralıklarla bir Yalom kitabı okumalı.
Seyed Pourya Salehi
این حل کردن پازل های تاریخی، این نگاه نو به فلسفه که تسکین دهنده ی همه افکار ِ فلسفی ِ آزاردهنده ی سالهای اخیرم است...این استعداد ِ عجیب در فلسفیدن ِ آمیخته با رواندرمانی که براستی نوعی تسامح با طبیعت(اسپینوزایی) در فلسفه را به نمایش میگذارد.... این نویسنده ی بی نظیر
نخوانده ی این کتاب، خواننده ای ناقص است
Ron Charles
Among the innumerable treasures the Nazis stole from Europe during World War II was a collection of books displayed at the Spinoza Museum in Rijns­burg, Holland. Compared with the Rembrandts and Vermeers nearby, these antique volumes weren’t particularly valuable, but the Nazi officer assigned to carry out this little act of plunder said the books were of “great importance for the exploration of the Spinoza problem.”

The Spinoza problem? Was that a subset of the Jewish Question? Or was it some ot...more
A fine intellectual novel that brought back the bit I remember about Spinoza from college and added to it. Alternating chapters deal with Spinoza's life and the life of Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler's primary ideologue dealing with racial purity and the "Jewish problem." While educating himself, Rosenberg became fascinated and deeply impressed with Spinoza's thought, and plagued by the conflict created in his mind by these great ideas springing from a Jew. He tried but never succeeded into resolving...more
I immensely enjoyed this book. The writing is in sync with the topic of the book, which is something I never experienced before. Spinoza is portrayed as a person who puts reason on the foreground in every aspect of his life. While some doubt the truth value of this (we do not know if Spinoza actually resembled his philosophy in every aspect) I enjoyed it because this way, Spinoza and his search for the unity of everything in nature as well as his rational way of arguing shines through the entire...more
Historical novels are a challenge to any writer, and the challenge gets all the larger when such novels are also novels of ideas. That is the case here. Irving Yalom, who is almost always interesting to read, must get the main characters, in this case Bernard Spinoza and the Nazi war criminal and "theoretician of anti-Semism, Alfred Rosenberg, to expound their ideas. To do so, he must create ancillary characters who are mainly there to get the main characters to speak. This can be quite awkward,...more
Wow. Spinoza applied uncompromising rationalism to life, ethics and beliefs. Educational and riveting. I am not smart enough to read Spinoza but this book has easy prose and is a nourishing subject for any atheist/rational thinking person. Astonishing insights into and for a 17th century autodidact.
Yakup  Öner
Irvin D. Yalom'a özgü kurgusal romanlarından bir tanesi olan Spinoza Problemi aslında tam anlamıyla kurgusal olduğunu söyleyemeyiz.Çünkü yazar çok detaylı bir çalışma ve kaynak araştırması ile biraz da yüksek ihtimalle olmuş ve olabilirliği muhtemel bir olaylar örgüsünü kurgusallıkla harmanlayıp bize sunmaktadır.Baruch Spinoza'yı önemsediğimden ve Irvin D. Yalom da özellikle Nietzsche Ağladığında kitabından bilip beğenmiş olduğumdan bu kitap doğallığından ilgimi çekmişti. Spinoza'ya giriş niteli...more
Ferda Nihat Köksoy
SPİNOZA PROBLEMİ –Nazi Subayının Paradoksu-
Kitaptan Alıntılar ve Sentezler:
-Dünyayı sonsuzluğu ile algılayabilmem için, KENDİ KİMLİĞİMDEN, yani kendime olan bağlılığımdan KURTULMAM, her şeyi doğru açıdan görebilmem gerekiyor. Bu bana HUZUR veriyor ve ÖLÜMDEN BİLE KORKUSUZ hale getiriyor. BAŞKALARI DA bunu yapabilse, birbirimizle DOST olur; KENDİMİZ İÇİN İSTEDİKLERİMİZİ BAŞKALARI İÇİN DE İSTEYEBİLİRİZ. Bu tavır, AYNI ANDA HEM AYRI HEM DE PARÇASI OLMA hali...more
Spinoza's unexpected and soothing participation in Tashlich towards the last third of the book is the novelist's reminder of the importance of community -- more important than uniformity of thought, creed, or reason: "Obviously he had underestimated the power of the past. Its stamp is indelible; it cannot be erased; it colors the present and vastly influences feelings and actions...So many things became clear: the healing power with which he imbued Franco [a Jew who secretly broke Spinoza's exco...more
**He’s done it again.**

Yalom’s done it again. He has combined his therapeutic, writing, and human gifts to create a thought-provoking, emotion-inducing, and aha!-generating masterpiece.

Not to idolize him too much (confession: I do regard him in high esteem, and his perspectives have greatly influenced my work as a psychotherapist and my journey as a stumbling human), but who else could create a novel that weaves a story from the elusive life of Spinoza and the dark forces of Nazi ideologue Alfr...more
Maxim Van Eeckhout
Interessant hoe de auteur de levenswandel van Alfred Rosenberg kan koppelen aan die van Baruch Spinoza. Weliswaar niet rechtstreeks, maar toch genoeg om van een link te kunnen spreken.

In dit boek kan de lezer van twee walletjes eten. Enerzijds gunt de auteur de lezer een inkijk in het leven van Spinoza, waarschijnlijk de grootste denker die Nederland ooit heeft voortgebracht, en anderzijds kan de lezer zich inleven in de personage van Alfred Rosenberg, een geobsedeerde anti-semiet/nazi. Afwissel...more
I hate to say this, but it seems if you read one Yalom novel, it seems like you've read them all. I cannot say I dislike the book, hence two stars instead of one.

I have taken the liberty of copying-and-pasting two 2-star reviews from Amazon-dot-com, for they express very much how I feel:

I was a bit disappointed by Yalom's latest novel, especially after having enjoyed his other works.
The tale is creatively executed ( though the prose is far from being breathtaking) and contains many interesting p
Ann Klefstad
As usual, see blurb for plot details: this book is a biography of Baruch Spinoza paired with a bio of the actual Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, who had an unexplained thing about Spinoza, which Yalom reimagines and turns into the structuring principle of his book.
I gave this three stars because I really wanted to like this book. It's such a workmanlike effort. And I love Spinoza, despite my pathetic inability after years of trying to hack my way through the Ethics. (I read things like Spinoza...more
A biography less of historical events and more a story of fears, anxieties, and passions; as you'd expect from an author whose day job is psychoanalysis. That takes some getting used to, and I don't think I ever got comfortable with this medium.

Yalom's Spinoza is quasi-autistic. A placid pool of rationality who blinks his deep soulful eyes at the crises in his life. Yalom's Rosenberg has more flesh to him only because he actually has a flaw. However at-one with the universe Spinoza's philosophy...more
Yd New Style
In the beginning I wasn't too happy with the mixed story line but that changed after a few chapters and became the wanna-read-more trigger; I finished the book in 5 days. The Spinoza story was interesting and a good introduction to his philosophy. I def want to dive into this. The Rosenberg story was an interesting journey. For a long time I felt sorry for him but then came a moment that this completely turned. I thought it to be cleaver writing. Though the "Schopenhauer Cure" created a personal...more
Andrew Pessin
I found this initially intriguing but ultimately tedious. In fact there is NOT much of a link to go on, between Rosenberg and Spinoza; it feels like a false or inflated premise. And also, pretty much, it's a novel in which nothing happens. There's a conversation; and then another conversation; and then another conversation where they talk about the previous conversation. If you want a very light fluffy summary of some of Spinoza's views, okay; and in fact the Rosenberg character is a pretty inte...more
I have enjoyed all the books I read by Dr. Yalom, fiction as well as non-fction. This book was a very special experience for me because I am writing a novel (thriller) also involving Spinoza and WWII Nazi thefts. I was very surprised that Yalom included (fictional and non-fictional) aspects about Spinoza and the Nazi war thefts that parallel certain elements of my novel. I kept wondering how readers who know little or nothing about Spinoza would enjoy this novel. I enjoyed it tremendously and vo...more
Recommended by a friend this book way exceeded any expectations I might have had. Both my friend and I are history buffs -- that might have helped us. I am embarrassed to say that I really didn't know anything about Spinoza and this was enlightening and encourages me to learn more. Spinoza's story is intertwined with the story of the rise of Hitler. I was aware of some of that history, however there were still things that I learned. Along with that -- a great read.
This book is more about the problem between "the God's chosen people" and "the self proclaimed superior race" than the Spinoza problem. However, Spinoza does have a problem. His denial of the spirit world and his idea that God is Nature is probably not everyone's cup of tea. In short, it is a mixture of historical facts and fiction albeit unsuccessful so Yalom should write about what he knows better and that probably being psychoanalysis.
How I managed to get through a degree in political science and maintain an interest in philosophy without having learned about Spinoza is a mystery to me, but what better way than this novel. As with Yalom's other novels, he is able to bring his characters truly to life. Whether you like them, or are slightly disgusted by them (think Alfred Rosenberg), they are right there next to you, as human as anyone in your life. In this novel Yalom was able to incorporate a stunning amount of fact and hist...more
For once I'm surprised by how much I *dis*liked a book. *The Spinoza Problem* has so many of the elements that I usually adore: historical fiction drawn around real and important historical figures, settings and themes of personal significance to me, and a core political/philosophical dimension. Yet I never connected with this book.

Though it does provide an accessible introduction to Spinoza's complex and sometimes obtuse philosophy, I found its presentation so simplified that it sometimes felt...more
It was a painless way to learn about Spinoza's philosophy. And I came away thinking that Rosenberg could have been anyone with low self-esteem and a tragic need for approval. Definitely a quick read, but, in the end, not sure the story actually amounts to much. The reading of it, perhaps like the process of creating, was the main thing.
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Irvin David Yalom, M.D., is an author of fiction and nonfiction, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, an existentialist, and accomplished psychotherapist.
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“If Epicurus were speaking to you at this moment, he would urge you to simplify life. Here's how he might put it if he were standing here today : " Lads,your needs are few, they are easily attained, and any necessary suffering can be easily tolerated. Don't complicate your life with such trivial goals as riches and fame: they are the enemy of ATARAXIA. Fame,for example,consist of the opinions of
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