Eric Hoffer

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Eric Hoffer (July 25, 1902 – May 21, 1983) was an American social writer and philosopher. He produced ten books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983. His first book, The True Believer, published in 1951, was widely recognized as a classic, receiving critical acclaim from both scholars and laymen,[1] although Hoffer believed that his book The Ordeal of Change was his finest work.[2] In 2001, the Eric Hoffer Award was established in his honor with permission granted by the Eric Hoffer Estate in 2005.


Early life

Hoffer was born in the Bronx, New York City in 1902 (or possibly 1898), the son of Elsa (née Goebel) and Knut Hoffer, a cabinetmaker.[3] His parents were immigrants from Alsace. By the age of five, he could read in both German and English.[4][5] When he was age five, his mother fell down a flight of stairs with Eric in her arms. Hoffer went blind for unknown medical reasons two years later, but later in life he said he thought it might have been due to trauma. ("I lost my sight at the age of seven. Two years before, my mother and I fell down a flight of stairs. She did not recover and died in that second year after the fall.I lost my sight and for a time my memory").[6] After his mother's death he was raised by a live-in relative or servant, a German woman named Martha. His eyesight inexplicably returned when he was 15. Fearing he would again go blind, he seized upon the opportunity to read as much as he could for as long as he could. His eyesight remained, and Hoffer never abandoned his habit of voracious reading.

Hoffer was a young man when his father, a cabinetmaker, died. The cabinetmaker's union paid for the funeral and gave Hoffer a little over three hundred dollars. Sensing that warm Los Angeles was the best place for a poor man, Hoffer took a bus there in 1920. He spent the next 10 years on Los Angeles' skid row, reading, occasionally writing, and working odd jobs. On one such job, selling oranges door-to-door, he discovered he was a natural salesman and could easily make good money. Uncomfortable with this discovery, he quit after one day.[7]

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