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Niederland, W.G. (1956). Daniel Paul Schreber: Memoirs of my Nervous Illness: Translated, Edited, with Introduction, Notes and Discussion by Ida Macalpine, M.D. and Richard A. Hunter, M.D. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Robert Bentley, Inc., 1955. 419 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 25:93-94.
(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:93-94
Daniel Paul Schreber: Memoirs of my Nervous Illness: Translated, Edited, with Introduction, Notes and Discussion by Ida Macalpine, M.D. and Richard A. Hunter, M.D. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Robert Bentley, Inc., 1955. 419 pp.
Review by: William G. Niederland
With the publication of this important volume, Schreber's famous Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken has finally reached the English-speaking world, fifty-two years after its first appearance in Leipzig. Freud's suggestion that readers of his Psychoanalytic Notes Upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides) 'make themselves acquainted with the book by reading it through at least once', has finally been made possible of fulfilment by those unacquainted with German. In fact, this readable and excellent translation should be read by any students of psychiatry and psychoanalysis who want to understand psychotic mechanisms, thinking, language, symbolism, symptom-formation, and defenses. Its extraordinarily rich content was used first by Freud, later also by Katan, Fenichel, Wittels, the present reviewer, and by the two present translators.
As long as Drs. Macalpine and Hunter write as translators and editors of Schreber's text, they stand on solid ground and one is impressed by the clarity and perspicacity of their efforts (apart perhaps from some minor questionable translations such as 'basic devils' for Grundteufel or 'basic language' for Grundsprache) which make the central part of their book so immensely useful. However, as soon as they move out of their role as translators and become discussants or interpreters, as they do in the opening and especially in the concluding chapters of the volume, some of their formulations seem controversial and occasionally even speculative. Their statements, for instance, that 'Freud's attention had been drawn to Schreber's Memoirs by Bleuler's or that 'psychiatric and psychoanalytic texts quote only those passages extracted by Freud' (pp. 10, 11), are not borne out by a study of the available literature. Katan's papers and contributions are based on a thorough study of the original text; so too were this reviewer's comments in 1951. And to write of 'Freud's homosexual bias' (p. 24) and of 'the taboo of a "classic" … immediately attached to Freud's paper, setting it above critical scrutiny' (p. 369) indicates perhaps some bias in the writers. Probably no author, whatever he said or wrote, has ever been subject to more criticism than Freud.
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