A psychoanalytical star comes in for close analysis and is found deeply wanting.
Masud Khan (1924-89) came to London in something of the same way Ramu Gupta comes to New York in the 2002 film The Guru, with only a partially formed idea of what he might do but more than enough charisma to squeak by. He was tall—which, as with all things psychoanalytical, would have implications—and handsome, though with a visible deformity and all its implications. He was also very wealthy, and able to use his money and influence to attain what he wished. As psychoanalyst Hopkins writes in this lucid biography, Khan was a brilliant, impassioned student of literature; late in life, he would insist that a friend acquire a copy of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and read it carefully and at once, just because he wanted to talk about it. He brought his literary skills to bear as an editor of psychoanalytic literature, including works by Sigmund Freud and, particularly, of the now highly regarded English analyst D. W. Winnicott (“It was part of the collusion between these two men,” writes Hopkins, using a most loaded word, “that Winnicott got most of the credit, even when Khan provided major help”). Khan was also much in demand as a therapist, though as the years wore on he was increasingly given to destructive relationships with women outside his marriage, including at least one patient, for which he was professionally reprimanded. Khan also became an alcoholic, and, though he battled cancer for years, in the end it was drinking that killed him. Hopkins concludes that Khan was “a brilliant interpreter of the self in his patients, but when it came to understanding himself, he was inconsistent.” As are all of us, which makes Khan’s fall from stardom comprehensible, if perhaps overdue.
Khan is little remembered outside analytical circles today. This likely won’t change that, but it provides insight into the works and days of a talented but tormented man.