Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis

By Coline Covington; Barbara Wharton | Go to book overview
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Chapter 11

'In league with the devil, and yet you fear fire?'

Sabina Spielrein and C.G. Jung: A suppressed scandal from the early days of psychoanalysis

Sabine Richebächer

(Translated from the German by Barbara Wharton)

'The past is never dead. It is not even past.'

(William Faulkner)

From its opening in 1838 the Baur en Ville Hotel on the Paradeplatz in Zürich has been one of the most elegant houses in the city. On 17 August 1904 there is a great commotion there: the daughter of the wealthy Jewish merchant Naphtul Spielrein from Rostov-on-Don is making such a fuss that she has to be admitted to the Burghölzli psychiatric clinic.

Accompanied by a medical police official and her uncle Lublinsky, and with a medical report from Dr Bion and from Lublinsky, the young Russian woman is brought to the Burghölzli at 10.30 in the evening. She is not mad, she insists, she has just got upset at the hotel; she cannot stand people or noise. Meanwhile she is laughing and crying in a strange mixture, rotating her head, sticking out her tongue, jerking her legs and complaining of a headache. After the admission procedure she is put into ward E11 with a private nurse. 'A fairly quiet night' is the comment in the patient's notes the following day. After a morning with still more commotion there is a further comment: 'calmed down in the course of the day' (Chapter 5: 85).


The Burghölzli

The cantonal treatment and care institution for the mentally ill, the Burghölzli in Zürich, developed under its directors Auguste Forel (1879-1898) and Eugen Bleuler (1898-1927) into an internationally recognised centre for the young science of psychiatry. In his early years Auguste Forel made his mark in the field of microscopic brain research; later he became interested in questions relating to body/mind problems. Like Freud in his early years, Forel

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