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Abraham, K. (1935). The History of an Impostor in the Light of Psychoanalytical Knowledge. Psychoanal Q., 4:570-587.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 4:570-587

The History of an Impostor in the Light of Psychoanalytical Knowledge

Karl Abraham

The clinical material upon which the following essay in criminal psychology is based was not obtained from psychoanalytical treatment in the strict sense of the word. The subject matter is the story of a man about whom I had to make a report from a psychiatric point of view, as an army doctor, in the year 1918, and whom I came across again five years later in unusual circumstances. The limited time allowed for making an official report of this kind and the conditions in which work had to be carried on at the medical station did not permit of a regular psychoanalysis.

Nevertheless the life of this man presents some quite extraordinary features from a psychological point of view; for in recent years his social behavior underwent a reversal which was completely contrary to all psychiatric experience. But this element of the extraordinary—this contradiction of experience—can be satisfactorily explained if we take into consideration the familiar and well-grounded empiric findings of psychoanalysis. Again, the facts of this case seem specially well suited to prepare the ground for one of the future fields of application of psychoanalysis, i.e., criminology. I therefore hope that the unusual nature of the case will be held to justify its appearance in this psychoanalytical publication.

This man, whom I will call N., was twenty-two years old when he began his military service. He had already been convicted and imprisoned a number of times by civil courts in various parts of the country. He was sent into the army directly after his last term of imprisonment and there he received his military training.

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