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Lothane, Z. (2004). Devreese D. L'acte manqué paranoïaque Le dé lire de Schreber, entre les quatre discours universitaires et dans l'histoire allemande de Luther á Bismarck. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2003.. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 13(3):201-208.

(2004). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 13(3):201-208

Devreese D. L'acte manqué paranoïaque Le dé lire de Schreber, entre les quatre discours universitaires et dans l'histoire allemande de Luther á Bismarck. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2003.

Review by:
Zvi Lothane

Paul Schreber was a life whose memory survives as a book (1), Denkwü rdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken (Noteworthy thoughts of a nervous patient), made world famous by Freud. Mistranslating the book's title as Memoirs of my Nervous Illness by Macalpine and Hunter was compounded by the arbitrary omission of its subtitle: under what premises may a person considered psychotic (or insane) be kept in an asylum against his declared will? This very important subtitle sums up Schreber's plight during his second illness and the purpose of the book: to prove that having been diagnosed as a chronic and incurable paranoiac was a psychiatric error and declared mentally incompetent a legal error, that he was sane and entitled to get out of the asylum alive. In the Sonnenstein Asylum he was merely warehoused, suffered humiliations, received no treatment. While ready to leave in 1897, his stay unnecessarily prolonged for five years. The court agreed with him and against the asylum director and set him free. These facts color almost everything written in that book.

Writing the book was for its author a labor of self-therapy and an act of self-vindication. It is a retrospect of his life: a mixture of a realistic, autobiographical account, written in sober narrative prose, and a treatise on matters natural and supernatural, on sexuality, identity, and his personal religion, in the style of magical realism, a poetic, fantastic narrative of visions and voices. Branding the fantastic part as a “paranoid system” is based on a conflation of the two distinct definitions of paranoia: (a) delusions of persecution without a real cause and (b) fantastic imaginings, or daydreams.

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