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Lebovici, S. (1978). Presidental Address in Honour of the Centenary of the Birth of Karl Abraham. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 59:133-144.

(1978). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59:133-144

Presidental Address in Honour of the Centenary of the Birth of Karl Abraham

Serge Lebovici

Our Congress gives us an appropriate occasion to celebrate the memory of Karl Abraham, one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis, who was born a century ago and died prematurely, at the age of 49, on Christmas Day 1925. Abraham played an essential part in the beginnings of our Association, having been President in 1914 and again in 1925. However, I do not intend to eulogize Karl Abraham here; nor do I want to describe his life or summarize his work.

The importance of ambivalence in mental life, particularly in the work of mourning (as Abraham has abundantly shown) should prevent each of us from repeating Theodore Reik's experience when he was asked by Freud to give the eulogy to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society after the death of his teacher (Reik, 1953). As you know, Reik had been analysed by Abraham, who did not ask for payment. They remained excellent friends, although Reik, who was not a physician, came up against Abraham's hostility towards the practice of analysis by 'laymen'. This was certainly a cause, albeit perhaps a superficial one, of Reik's ambivalence to the teacher and friend whose funeral eulogy he was instructed to deliver. This situation led him to undertake a very interesting essay into self-analysis which went on for 25 years. Reik wondered why, after learning of Abraham's death during the Christmas holiday of 1925, he was constantly haunted by the recollection of the chorus of the last movement of Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony. It is sufficient here to recall that Reik came to draw a parallel between the relationship of Gustav Mahler and Hans Von Bülow on the one hand, and his own relationship with Abraham on the other—Mahler had been introduced to the Hamburg orchestra by Bülow, whom he then succeeded.

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