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Jacobs, T. (1986). Blood Brothers. Siblings as Writers: Edited by Norman Kiell. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1983. 434 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 55:168-170.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:168-170

Blood Brothers. Siblings as Writers: Edited by Norman Kiell. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1983. 434 pp.

Review by:
Theodore Jacobs

This collection of essays, edited by Norman Kiell, focuses on an aspect of creativity that is both fascinating in itself and uniquely interesting to psychoanalysts. In each of twelve chapters, the relationship of a pair of brothers who are writers is explored in an effort to shed light on the influence of the sibling relationship, not only on their personalities, but more specifically on their creative work.

Represented in these studies are a number of brother pairs whose independent achievements are well recognized: Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Aldous and Julian Huxley, Isaac Bashevis and I. J. Singer, Lytton and James Strachey, Anthony and Peter Shaffer, Lawrence and Gerald Durrell. In the case of others—James and Stanislaus Joyce, Oscar and Willie Wilde, Dante Gabriel and William Rossetti, Max Beerbohm and Herbert Beerbohm Tree—it was one brother who, in effect, was the writer of significance. The importance of the other in literary terms lay not so much in his own creative output, as in the effect that he had on his more famous sibling.

In each case, however, the relationship between the brothers exerted a strong and pervasive influence on the development of their careers. As Nigel Hamilton observes in his insightful study of the prolonged, bitter, symbolically fratricidal rivalry between Thomas and Heinrich Mann, "Knowledge of the sibling rivalry of the Manns may not be essential to an understanding of their individual works but it is essential for an understanding of their achievement" (p. 71). It is also true, however, as these essays amply demonstrate, that it was the strong feelings of one brother for another that provided the stimulus for and gave shape to some of the most significant works in our literature. In the case of the Manns, Hamilton demonstrates not only that each brother undertook in a number of books to expose and refute the moral and political position of the other, but that one of Thomas Mann's greatest achievements, The Magic Mountain, consists of a debate between characters who clearly represent Heinrich and himself.

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