Julie's Reviews > Diagnosing Genius: The Life and Death of Beethoven

Diagnosing Genius by François Martin Mai
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's review
Feb 17, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: music, biography

Mai's "Diagnosing Genius" has five sections. The first section describes the social and political setting of Beethoven's life. I found it even more helpful than the biographies I've read, in setting the great composer in the context of his times. The second gives an overview of the composer's biography. (You can skip this if you've read Solomon.) The third analyzes Beethoven's health problems, as reported in his notebooks and the writings of his friends and doctors. In the fourth section, Mai interprets these health problems in light of current medical knowledge, and makes several diagnoses. The fifth section is a survey of what is known more generally about the nexus between illness and creativity, especially "eminent" creativity such as that exhibited by Beethoven.
I read this book because I was interested in how a man such as Beethoven, who faced a constellation of health problems (of which deafness may not have been the most debilitating), managed to produce such a large and meaningful body of work. The book answered the question, to the extent it can be answered.

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