DIAGNOSING GENIUS: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BEETHOVEN
Beethoven’s extraordinary ability to compose great music despite severe health problems, including deafness and depression, has puzzled and inspired. In Diagnosing Genius, Francois Mai looks at the relationship between health and creativity to show how the composer was able to transcend physical and emotional torment to produce some of the most beautiful music in Western Culture.
Mai, an experienced physician and psychiatrist, worked from the symptoms described in the medical evidence, Beethoven’s letters to those of his friends and the reports of his physicians to look at how Beethoven’s health complaints would have been understood and treated within the medical, political, and social climate of both his time and ours. He discusses Beethoven’s terminal illness and resulting autopsy report in order to consider the possible role of alcohol, lead poisoning and syphilis n causing Beethoven’ death.
Diagnosing Genius analyses the psychology of creativity. Beethoven’s infirmities led to physical pain, isolation, and tortuous relationships, but they also enhanced, perhaps even fed his creativity.
A review for Diagnosing Genius can be found in the Literary Review of Canada, June 2007, page 27.