Tuesday 15 June 2010

Freud and Wales

(front) Sigmund Freud, Sàndor Ferenczi, Hanns Sachs (back) Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, Ernest Jones

I am asked for some Summer reading recommendations and so trying to think of things I've read with mental health relevance but not too heavy-duty to get stuck into under a parasol in Tenby or Torremolinos. So no textbooks or self-help you will be relieved to hear...

Kingsley Amis’ “Stanley and the Women” describes the troubles of a father whose son is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Real life carers could pick holes in it but for all that it captures some of the disempowerment and poor service which families often experience. It also (as the title suggests) reflects Amis’ difficult attitude to women ("Would you say, would you assent to the proposition that all women are mad?" Stanley replies, "Yes. No, not all. There are exceptions, naturally.") – be warned. My favourite Amis is “The Old Devils” based in Swansea about corrupt and sexually incontinent academics and celebrities – not much about mental health except... well, everything about mental health.

Sebastian Faulks’ “Human Traces” is a long and quite demanding fictional account of the development of psychiatry. I couldn’t put it down because it so entertainingly describes the strengths and weaknesses of psychoanalysis and the ethical dilemmas of psychiatry. His “Engleby”, a scary story of personality disorder, is also interesting but might be distressing for some people personally affected by mental illness.

Learn about the only English-speaking (as a first language) member of Freud’s inner circle – his loyal biographer Ernest Jones who rescued SF from the Nazis in 1938 - in Brenda Maddox' “Freud's Wizard - The Enigma of Ernest Jones”. Jones, born in Gowerton and an early Welsh nationalist, was a colossus in the development of psychiatry especially in the English-speaking world. You might expect him to be the object of great respect in Welsh mental health services but he was involved in a serious scandal in his early career which I think subdues public recognition today – read and judge for yourself.

More fun with Freud in the detective novel "The Interpretation of Murder" by Jed Rubenfeld in which Freud helps an American psychologist solve a murder.

My favourite novelist (now out of favour) is Anthony Burgess whose “End of the World News” (out of print but look for a cheap second hand copy on the Amazon link) uses an apocalyptic world catastrophe to explore the lives of both Trotsky and Freud - don't ask: you have to read it. Burgess was that rare thing, an English fan of the Welsh people, language and culture. He also said that, although people think that the great Welsh vice is drink (his Welsh wife certainly died of it), in fact it is sex. I leave it to you to decide whether that makes you feel better.

Meanwhile don't forget all the valuable publications available from Hafal here.