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Freud, A. (1974). On Hilda Abraham's Biography of Karl Abraham. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 1:15-15.

(1974). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1:15-15

On Hilda Abraham's Biography of Karl Abraham

Anna Freud

Among the men who gathered around the founder of psychoanalysis in its early days, Karl Abraham stood out by virtue of his character, his independence and his efficiency. As director of the Berlin Institute—the first psychoanalytic institute in existence—his activities on its behalf were impeccable. As teacher of a whole generation of analysts, he was renowned and attracted students from the whole Continent, England and the United States. As author of many original publications, he showed great clinical acumen, breadth of theoretical thinking and clarity of style. As mentor and adviser of his young colleagues, he was helpful, reliable and much appreciated. However, it was at no time easy for his fellow-beings to advance beyond this professional exterior. In his non-professional interactions with them he was reserved and cool rather than outgoing and companionable.

These and similar reasons make a life story of Karl Abraham all the more promising and welcome (this issue). Nevertheless, whenever a biography such as this is written by a near relative, not to mention a daughter, it is open to suspicion from the outset. Where relations between the biographer and his subject have been positive and affectionate, the result is usually classed as hero-worship; where they have been strained, it may easily be regarded as belated critical revenge.

It is much to Hilda Abraham's credit that her work avoids falling into either of these categories. The readers, even including those who knew father and daughter in their younger years, can only approve of the detached manner in which she approaches the man who, after all, dominated her childhood and growth and became the object of identification for her adult life.

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