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Ettlinger, N. (1986). Melanie Klein by Phyllis Grosskurth. Published by Hodder and Stoughton; 1986; £19.95.. Brit. J. Psychother., 3(2):188-190.

(1986). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(2):188-190

Melanie Klein by Phyllis Grosskurth. Published by Hodder and Stoughton; 1986; £19.95.

Review by:
Nini Ettlinger

Had you or I met Frau Klein when early in the century, a young mother of three with little higher education, she was seriously adrift, trapped in the meshes of a severe depressive neurosis, entangled with a bossy mother rather aptly called Libussa, would we have predicted that here was embodied greatness? For years she projected her astonishing creativity into her brother Emanuel, an itinerant artiste manque, who died of tuberculosis in Genoa when she was twenty, just four years before her marriage which would later be dissolved.

A sister whom she dearly loved had died when Melanie was four. Her father died when she was eighteen, Libussa when she was thirty-two, when her youngest son was four months old. It seems that this holocaust precipitated Mrs Klein, by way of discovering Freud's book on Dreams with a sense of deep excitement, into analysis with Ferenczi. So began her love affair with Psychoanalysis.

Antisemitism drove her from Budapest to Berlin into the orbit of Abraham, who became her second analyst for just over a year before he died at the height of his influence. Had you or I met her in Berlin during those post-war years when her couch-sister, Alexis Strachey, was nearly driven round the bend by Die Klein, that chatterbox, even at the Opera, would we have had the intuition to place our confidence in her? Ernest Jones did. He brought her over to England, and even more entrusted his entire family, both his children and his wife, to Klein as an analyst.

Despite her chequered history, as victim of painful circumstances in both her closer and wider world, her undoubted genius lay in her inspired observation of the play of little children. For centuries mothers must have watched their minioffspring collide small lorries, wagons, ox-carts or rickshaws with that familiar furore. But never had it dawned on them as it did on Mrs Klein, consciously at any rate, that they were in fact observing the symbolic collision of a parental intercourse.

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