SURVIVING And Other Essays by Bruno Bettelheim
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SURVIVING And Other Essays

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Spanning nearly years, Bettelheim's essays serve as an estimable legacy, a record of his enduring probity and humane involvements. The title, taken from a controversial New Yorker piece on the film Seven Beauties, is emblematic of his orientation: as a survivor of Dachau and Buchenwald, he has been an irreproachable witness, a steady voice in the chorus of interpreters. Bettelheim maintains that psychoanalytic training enabled him to resist the ego-threatening structure of the camps: it gave him a way to organize his experience and, after his release, to confront the guilt that accompanied him. And in these essays--on the camps, personality formation and disintegration, assorted contemporary issues--he argues articulately, using the complementary perceptions gained from these two pivotal experiences. Some essays are new, some slightly rewritten, and several appeared preliminary to more expansive books (The Informed Heart, The Empty Fortress) or as reviews of current works (the films Anne Frank and Seven Beauties, Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem). Trenchant, resolute, methodically formulated, they explore personal trauma (including similarities between camp inmates and highly disturbed children), ""Autonomy and Alienation,"" the significance of Sixties radicals, ""Mental Health and Urban Design,"" attitudes toward privacy--a broad range of critical subjects. At times, individual assertions pique while his larger authority stands fast--one may challenge his contention that autism is wholly psychogenic (Josh Greenfeld's Noah is an opposing view) and yet recognize the achievements of the Orthogenic School, or admire his foresighted comments on ""Growing Up Female"" (years before Betty Friedan) and yet question his unqualified pronouncement that every ""normal"" woman wants and needs a man. Like Margaret Mead, Bettelheim has used a disciplined perspective to examine related areas, and if he sometimes falls short (a ""satire"" of Portnoy's Complaint now seems humorless and plodding), he more often extends our understanding and impresses with his perspicacity.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1979
Publisher: Knopf