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Servadio, E. (1990). Graziella Magherini. La sindrome di Stendhal. Ponte alle Grazie, Firenze, 1989, 182 pages, lire 20.000.. Rivista Psicoanal., 36(1):206-212.
(1990). Rivista di Psicoanalisi, 36(1):206-212
Graziella Magherini. La sindrome di Stendhal. Ponte alle Grazie, Firenze, 1989, 182 pages, lire 20.000.
Review by: Emilio Servadio
Graziella Magherini, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, is head of the mental health service in the Old Town of Florence and a lecturer at the School of specialisation in psychiatry at the local University. She is a Freudian analyst and a full member of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society.
This brief introduction has thus established the Author's credentials — even though one might imagine that many, if not quite all Italian psychoanalysts, should be familiar with the name and standing of Graziella Magherini. But now this bureaucratic formality is over, I will hesitate no further in saying that Magherini has written a splendid book — a rich tapestry of literary and historical learning, psychoanalytic expertise and a wealth of information about people and events which not everyone is familiar with. Last but not least: Magherini's use of language is extremely clear and correct — a rather uncommon feature in authors with a scientific background.
A few words will suffice to explain the title of the book. Many people are aware that the French writer Henri Beyle, better known as Stendhal, travelled widely, particularly in Italy and wrote several books about his experiences. As he himself writes, a visit to the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Florence disturbed him greatly. “I felt my heart beating violently — in Berlin they call this feeling ‘nerves’: I was drained of all life, as I walked along I was afraid of falling”.
The “Stendhal Syndrome” is thus the general term used to define psycho-affective reactions, which — as will become clear — can manifest themselves in various ways and be of diverse origin, but which all display one common feature — a feeling of discomfort of varying seriousness and intensity brought about by prolonged contemplation of works of art.
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