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Ehrlich, R. (2008). An Extraordinarily Complex Man: A review of False Self: The Life of Masud Khan, by Linda Hopkins. New York: Other Press, 2006, 525 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 44(3):486-497.

(2008). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 44(3):486-497

An Extraordinarily Complex Man: A review of False Self: The Life of Masud Khan, by Linda Hopkins. New York: Other Press, 2006, 525 pp.

Review by:
Robert Ehrlich, Ph.D.

In her Definitive Biography of Masud Khan, Linda Hopkins suggests that since approximately 1990 his contributions to psychoanalytic theory and practice have been eclipsed by the revelations of his clinical transgressions as well as the excesses of his personal life, both of which pointed to his serious psychological difficulties. This information was not widely available in 1975 when, as Hopkins notes, Erik Erikson is reputed to have said, “‘The next decade in psychoanalysis belongs to Khan’” (p. 253; qtd. from Khan, Work Book, July 28, 1975). Nevertheless, Hopkins states that by 1965 when Khan was only 41, he “was going downhill on a slow and relentless slide” (p. 149). Drawing primarily on interviews with Khan's relatives, friends, colleagues, analysands, and supervisees, as well as an examination of his published and unpublished writings, Hopkins very carefully tries to trace Khan's ascent and decline both personally and professionally in the context of his early upbringing in a feudal environment in the East and his later life in a more modern setting in the West. Hopkins was well situated to write this biography. She was not only trained at a psychoanalytic institute that emphasized the work of analysts in England, but she also studied Arabic and developed an interest in Islam. In addition, her use of Khan's unpublished Work Books, “a 3,045-page personal and professional diary covering the years 1967 to 1980” (p. xxv) is an extraordinarily valuable resource in understanding Khan. She is meticulous in the manner in which she utilizes these Work Books, as well as in the way she details his life, often by presenting the views of various people in an attempt to convey a full picture. Born in 1924, Khan grew up in a large family in what was then India but is now Pakistan. He was alternately adored and given special privileges as well as treated tyrannically and abandoned. About his upbringing, he stated that he was born into a feudal environment where he was “‘indulged … under an iron discipline, and the chief ideal presented to one was that one should spare oneself nothing. Both in terms of the good things in life and in terms of effort and application’” (p. 10; qtd.

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