The Spinoza Problem by Irvin D Yalom

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In 1909, sixteen-year-old Alfred Rosenberg is called into his headmaster's office for making anti-Semitic remarks. He is punished by having to memorise passages from the autobiography of Goethe -- and is stunned to discover that his idol was a great admirer of the seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

Spinoza himself was no stranger to punishment: accused of heresy, he was excommunicated from the Jewish community and banished from the only world he had ever known. Nevertheless, he became one of the most influential philosophers of his age.

Long after graduation, Rosenberg is possessed by the 'Spinoza problem': how could Goethe, the great German poet, have been inspired by a member of a race that Rosenberg considers inferior to his own? A race that, as he developed from anti-Semitic schoolboy to Nazi propagandist, he would become determined to destroy?

In his brilliant re-creation of the inner worlds of two men separated by 300 years -- one dedicated to fashioning a moral philosophy, the other obsessed with the superiority of the Aryan race -- internationally bestselling novelist Irvin D. Yalom explores the thin psychological line that separates genius and evil, and the lives of two men who changed the course of history.