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Stein, M.H. (1976). Robert C. Bak—1908–1974. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:179-180.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:179-180

Robert C. Bak—1908–1974

Martin H. Stein

It is still very difficult to write anything which acknowledges that Robert Bak has died. On countless occasions during the past few years we knew he had been appallingly close to death, saved only by emergency measures. He talked of his predicament objectively, without anger or self-pity. We knew that he was in constant danger, yet at the same time he displayed such an attachment to life, particularly the good things of life, that we found it impossible to accept that it must indeed come to an end—and soon.

Born and educated in Budapest, he remained very much the Hungarian, perhaps the epitome of what we who are not of the elect think that a Hungarian should be. A Romantic, whose vulnerability and idealism were scarcely hidden by a veneer of cynicism, he deceived none of his friends. He was deeply devoted to psychoanalysis, which he approached with the kind of enlightened scepticism Freud had very early commended in analysand and analyst alike. Bak took nothing for granted except the need to follow the analytic path wherever it led, always aware that the search for ultimate understanding could never be completed. He was a fine scholar and clinician, intrigued by theoretical advances but never satisfied with them, even if they were his own; his was an inquiring and perpetually restless intellect.

His other basic principle, demonstrated in every aspect of his life, was the importance of aesthetic quality. He was far more likely to be offended by gross lapses of taste or by mediocrity, for that matter, than by what he regarded as merely erroneous.

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