Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind

Anthony Storr, Author Grove Press $19.95 (310p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1052-7
In this collection of mini-psycho-biographies, Storr contends that Winston Churchill's brave defiance of Hitler's onslaughter owed much to another battle the politician wagedhis lifelong bout with depression, which Churchill nicknamed ``Black Dog.'' In his discussion of the relationship between genius and pathology, the author, a well-known British psychiatrist, makes much of Churchill's wet nurse and his ``oral'' personality, greedy for approval. In other pieces, Kafka's existential insecurity is traced to his parents' prolonged absences during his childhood, while Isaac Newton, a self-punishing hypochondriac with a paranoid streak, is seen gaining mastery over the universe in reaction to his exaggerated sense of helplessness as an infant. If Storr's psychoanalytic profiles are at times reductionist, he cautions nonetheless that there is no necessary link between creative inspiration and mental instability. This grab-bag of essays includes an analysis of sexual jealousy (using Shakespeare's Othello as an example), thoughts on Jung's mid-life crisis and the psychology of symbols and a stinging indictment of the sensory deprivation applied to prisoners in Northern Ireland. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Genre: Nonfiction
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