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Kuspit, J.C. (2009). False Self: The Life of Masud Khan. By Linda Hopkins. New York: Other Press, 2006, 551 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 96(3):544-557.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Review, 96(3):544-557

False Self: The Life of Masud Khan. By Linda Hopkins. New York: Other Press, 2006, 551 pp.

Review by:
Judith C. Kuspit, Ph.D.

Linda Hopkins's biography of the brilliant, mad, “third rail of psychoanalysis” (Rudnytsky, 2005, p. 1385), Masud Khan, is a tour de force. She is the Curator Extraodinaire of the deeply sacred, brilliant, and transgressive space(s) of Khan's life. She has an acutely judicious, nuanced grasp of both Masud the “spectacular,” “oozing gifts” in the words of one of his contemporaries (p. 375), and elements of his uncontained madness, his signature “Madness ‘X,’” as Winnicott might say. Khan may have been one litmus test in extremis of Winnicott's paradoxical: “We are poor indeed if we are only sane.” He played fast and loose with what others might call “external realities.” To his friend Robert Stoller he stated: “My realities are psychic realities,” and often quoted Oscar Wilde's observation that “nothing that actually occurs is of the smallest importance” (p. 165). Many who knew him were willing to “play” with him, engage him in this arena of communication. “Playing” for Khan “was the only antidote to all the fatalities of everyday existence” (p. 121).

Moreover, he had a facility for inhabiting the transitionality of the literary playspace, for example, Shakespeare, Joyce, Dostoyevsky, and others. Solely psychic reality, plus literary “reality” (what might be called the Coleridgean imaginative dream space of Kubla Khan), plus the rigors of psychoanalysis yielded, at the best of times, clinical brilliance, at the worst of times, toxic alcoholically fueled imaginative space transformed into symbolic equation. He was Prince Myshkin, a “Jesus”-like figure, and he was the “murderous” Rogozhin of The Idiot—both parts of the same self—during the summer of 1979 (see chap. 34). As he claimed, “that vast make-believe which is literature somehow to me feels more authentic than the living presence of most people” (p. 321).

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