While I usually try to do little reviews of writing books here on Fridays, I just finished a novel yesterday that was oddly fascinating.

When Nietzche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom is not a book that I would just pick up, but it’s a historical novel about the beginnings of psychotherapy. The cast of characters is a who’s who of Vienna in the 1880’s – Friedrich Nietzche, Josef Breuer, Sigmund Freud, Richard Wagner, and Lou Salome all play a part in this look at how doctors began with talk therapy. Surprisingly, not only does it deal with male obsession and anxiety, but female issues as well.

But what makes it a fun read is the back of the book, where Yalom talks about his research. This is a case where the work knows more than the writer. Yalom talks about writing the book then afterward finding documents that basically proved his fiction. Happy coincidences abound as he was trying to figure out a way to get Nietzche and Breuer to meet, and indeed, a scheme such as the one Lou proposes was actually concocted by a group of contemporaries, but in reality, Nietzche rejected the meeting and therefore never met Breuer.