Under Observation

Amalie Skram, Author, Judith Messick, Translator, Katherine Hanson, Translator Women in Translation $15.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-879679-03-0
In the late 19th century, Norwegian writer Skram had a nervous breakdown and entered a mental hospital for what she thought would be a brief respite from creative stress. Instead she found herself caught in a tug-of-war with a tyrannical doctor. This hefty novel is a slightly fictionalized version of that experience. Else Kant is a painter who agrees to be hospitalized for treatment of depression and insomnia. Every action and statement she makes is misinterpreted, and when she reacts to these misdiagnoses, she is branded irrational and hostile. Disappointed that her husband has not come to visit, she refuses to read his letters, and he is informed that she is furious with him and does not wish to see him. The evil Professor Hieronimus antagonizes and taunts her, and eventually transfers her to a second hospital, whose superintendent refuses to release her because of her open and venomous hatred for the professor. A smooth and natural translation conveys the frustration of these experiences and the creepy atmosphere at both hospitals. Elaine Showalter ( The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture 1830-1980 ) contributes a brief introduction that places the ``rest cure'' in its historical context. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
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