THE MEMOIRS OF MARGARET S' MAHLER by Paul E.--Ed. Stepansky

THE MEMOIRS OF MARGARET S' MAHLER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

More sketch than fully-realized reminiscence, this recounting of the life and accomplishments of a pioneer psychoanalyst is nonetheless dotted with anecdotal pleasures. Mahler, whose The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant investigated the relationship between mother and child during the first year of life, was born in Hungary, the daughter of a harshly dismissive mother and a father who treated her like a son. She was educated in Vienna, where she eventually became part of the city's renowned psychoanalytic elite--Sigmund and Anna Freud, Helene Deutsch, August Aichhorn. Sexism and anti-Semitism impeded her progress from the start. On the other hand, Mahler's bristling self-assurance did nothing to smooth the way, and her ""settling scores"" with several of her contemporaries even a half. century after the fact adds pungency (and a touch of mean-spiritedness) to her narrative. ""Of Anna Freud,"" she writes, ""my memories are sparse and unpleasant."" When the Nazi takeover of Austria seemed imminent, Mahler and her husband, like many European Jewish intellectuals, fled to the US: Her description of the reception accorded these refugees by the N.Y. psychoanalytic community is especially revealing; Eager to protect their own turf, the Americans did all they could to send their European colleagues into the hinterlands. Mahler remained in N.Y., however, and came to be a leader of the group, publishing groundbreaking papers on children and their psychological development. Editor Stepansky provides a sympathetic and informative introduction, unfortunately marred, for the general reader at least, by an excessive use of Latinisms and psychoanalytic jargon. All in all, however, a revealing and prickly self-portrait.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1988
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan