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Landau, B.J. (1998). Lost Prince. The Unsolved Mystery of Kaspar Hauser. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Translator and Introduction.: New York: The Free Press, 1996. 254 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 67(2):333-335.
(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(2):333-335
Lost Prince. The Unsolved Mystery of Kaspar Hauser. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Translator and Introduction.: New York: The Free Press, 1996. 254 pp.
Review by: Barry J. Landau
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's book offers a number of perspectives on the tragic, intriguing, and celebrated case of Kaspar Hauser. Hauser was said to have been kept in isolation during childhood, imprisoned in his room. His story first came to light when he turned up in Nuremberg in 1828, at the age of sixteen, barely able to walk or talk. Hauser attracted notoriety both during his lifetime and since, inspiring a large literature that Masson cites in his approximately two hundred footnotes.
Lost Prince is divided into three parts. First is Masson's seventy-five-page introduction, which includes his perspective on the case. The second, and central, part of the book is Masson's translation of the work by Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach. Feuerbach was the presiding chief judge in the court that had jurisdiction over Hauser. Feuerbach's book provides a beautiful description of Hauser's mental state and its connection with his past confinement. Masson indicates that his translation is the first complete English translation of Feuerbach's book, which is considered to be a masterpiece of German judicial literature. Masson's translation is clear and very readable. The third part of the book contains five appendices, with Masson's translations of additional documents pertaining to the case.
As indicated in the subtitle, the story of Kaspar Hauser is a mystery, or actually a series of mysteries. One such mystery pertains to his unusual state of mind, so clearly described in Feuerbach's work, and how this mental state relates to his severe isolation during childhood. There is also the mystery of Hauser's death, reported to be a murder. Some people claimed that Hauser's death was a suicide and that his whole presentation was a sham. Linked with the mystery of Hauser's death is the question about his identity. Masson marshals evidence to support a theory that Hauser was the Prince of Baden and that he was murdered for political reasons.
These mysteries are linked with the confusion that often surrounds reports of child abuse: Did it really happen? If it did, to what extent are the person's current problems the result of the fact of that abuse? And to what extent can one rely on the accuracy of the individual's memory of abusive experiences?
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