- Biography & Memoir
Who was Sabina Spielrein? Her dramatic life story is most famous for her notorious affair with Carl Jung, dramatised in the film A Dangerous Method starring Keira Knightley. Yet she was a woman who overcame family and psychiatric abuse to become an original thinker in the field of psychotherapy.
This is the first biography to put her life and ideas at the centre of the story, and to examine Spielrein’s key role in the development of psychoanalysis and in the rift between Jung and Freud. Drawing on fresh research into Spielrein’s diaries, papers and correspondence, John Launer tells the story of a passionate woman who transformed herself from one of Jung’s disturbed patients into a leading figure in Western psychology, then the Soviet intelligentsia, before losing her life in the Holocaust.
At the heart of Sex Versus Survival is the gripping tale of Spielrein and Jung’s tumultuous affair, which played such an important role in both of their lives and intellectual journeys. Launer shows how Spielrein’s overlooked ideas – rejected by Jung and Freud, but substantially vindicated by later developments in psychology and evolutionary biology – may represent the last and most important stage in the rediscovery of an extraordinary life.
‘Launer’s well researched book is a tribute to a remarkable woman who, by analysing her own experience of abuse, went on to make a difference to others as a leading child psychologist. ...This memorable book finally gives her the recognition she deserves.’ The Lady
‘Spielrein emerges from the murk with more credit than either man. She pushed on with her career at the forefront of child psychology…I’m impressed by the humane dignity with which he recounts her lurid life' The Spectator
‘Sabina Spielrein has been presented to the world as an erotic go-between linking Freud and Jung in the steamy days of the beginnings of psychoanalysis. In this remarkable, ground-breaking work, John Launer shows just how distorted and limited a view this is of a woman who was a pioneer of psychoanalysis and of scientific thinking in psychology. With grace and scholarly passion, Launer offers a radical new biography that places Spielrein where she belongs – as a figure of majorimportance in twentieth century thought' Professor Stephen Frosh, Birkbeck College, London and author of For and Against Psychoanalysis
'Dr. Launer argues cogently . . . that Spielrein was not only an influence on Freud and Jung but an originating, and honestly female, analyst in her own right . . .The account of her anonymous end, in the Holocaust, is painfully moving' D. M. Thomas, author of The White Hotel
‘This wonderful book is the first full-length biography in English of Sabina Spielrein. Mainly remembered, if at all, as someone who had an affair with Carl Jung, when she was a patient of his, she was also, as John Launer reveals, a highly original thinker whose work is only now becoming appreciated' Professor Michael J. Reiss, Institute of Education, University of London
‘An eminently readable, detective story-like history of the early years of psychoanalysis and the fascinating woman at its heart. Spielrein’s intuition of a trade-off between survival and reproduction is now a cornerstone of evolutionary theory. But for sexism, anti-Semitism, World War I, Stalinism, and the Holocaust, psychoanalysis might long ago have been grounded in our only scientific theory of life' Professor James Chisholm, University of Western Australia and author of Death, Hope and Sex: Steps to an Evolutionary Ecology of Mind and Morality