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Lothane, H.Z. (2015). Afterimages of Schreber. By Alex Pheby. London: Colico Press, 2014, 302 pp.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(3):621-630.

(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(3):621-630

Afterimages of Schreber. By Alex Pheby. London: Colico Press, 2014, 302 pp.

Review by:
Henry Zvi Lothane

Paul Schreber's immortal book, the title of which should be Great Thoughts of a Nervous Patient rather than Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (1903), continues to inspire interpretations of his life and ideas. Schreber has disappeared from the radar of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts but continues to fascinate interpreters creating films, plays, operas—and novels (e.g., Huizing 2008), the latest being Afterimages of Schreber, by the English novelist Alex Pheby. This work alternates between fiction and academic nonfiction, freely mixing fact and fantasy. The book's main text, 134 pages long, is preceded by six pages of references titled “Repeatedly Read.” It is followed by an appendix of 161 pages; there is no index. The experiment is both pleasing and problematic.

The book opens with an imaginary monologue by Schreber, followed by a fictional undated letter from Schreber's physician, Dr. Dannenberg (see Lothane 1992, p. 88) to Schreber's adoptive daughter Fridoline about her father's recent admission to Leipzig-Dösen psychiatric hospital. The letter states that a fictional Fraulein Gerhardt and her mother, Frau Gerhardt, have “no intention of pressing charges [against Schreber], and the police will not be levying any fines for the disturbing of the peace” (p. 9). Also mentioned in the letter is the real Dr. Rössler (the correct spelling is Rösler). Whereas there is only one signed chart note by Rösler about the moribund Schreber on April 13, 1911, one day before his death, Pheby invents an ongoing analysis of Schreber by this doctor from 1907 to 1911. In a section dated “3rd May '07” Pheby declares:

cursory readings of Santner [1996], Lothane, Freud [1911], and Israels [1989]…. Clinically, I feel myself steering away from straight Freudian reading of paranoia…. My initial thoughts are that I can use Schreber's hospital notes [1907-1911] stating that he was convinced that his head was alive while his body rotted away as the basis for a continuation of the messianic theme of the Memoirs. … Will finish Lothane and Israels and make a start on Niederland [1974]. Hopefully there will be some clarification of the antagonism shown in Lothane for Niederland's approach. While it is impossible to question his scholarship, Lothane's overstated distaste for Niederland, and Israels's outright hostility, make me instinctively suspicious of their arguments [pp. 10-11].

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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