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Perman, G.P. (2018). Apologia Pro Vita Mea: An Intellectual Odyssey, by Richard D. Chessick, Routledge, Abington, England and New York, 2018, 330 pp.. Psychodyn. Psych., 46(4):601-606.

(2018). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 46(4):601-606

Apologia Pro Vita Mea: An Intellectual Odyssey, by Richard D. Chessick, Routledge, Abington, England and New York, 2018, 330 pp.

Review by:
Gerald P. Perman, M.D.

Apologia Pro Vita Mea [In Defense of My Life]: An Intellectual Odyssey, is a summation of Dr. Chessick's prodigious oeuvre (209 references in the book are to Chessick's own publications) in which he presents many of his ideas over his lifetime and then defends them against the critiques of a ghost.

I previously reviewed Chessick's didactic novel, Descent into Darkness: The Psychodynamics of a Mental Illness (Perman, 2012), for this publication in which psychiatrist “Martin” organizes a study tour of Turkey as a foil for Chessick to present a series of lectures on ancient history, philosophy, and psychoanalytic psychiatry. In Apologia Chessick uses a similar creative approach in which he and the ghost of George Gomori, his medical school histochemistry professor at the University of Chicago, engage in dialogue throughout the book. Dr. Gomori died of heart disease soon after Chessick graduated medical school.

Chessick produced 70 volumes of diaries, beginning at least in medical school, and to which he refers time and again in this fascinating review of his intellectual life. Just as the reader is remarking to him or herself how outdated and passé are a number of Chessick's older psychiatric ideas and formulations, he has “George” step in and say it for us: “What a bunch of hogwash!” Chessick then responds to George with an apologia, or defense, of his ideas.

Apologia Pro Vita Mea: An Intellectual Odyssey is divided into five sections: I. Research, II. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, III. Parerga, IV. Paralipomena, and V. Divagations and Pavannes. Each section is preceded by one or more quotations, sometimes ancient, sometimes more modern, but all of depth, beauty, and wisdom.

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