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Jung Stripped BareReview - Jung Stripped Bare
By His Biographers, Even
by Sonu Shamdasani
Karnac, 2005
Review by Petar Jevremovic
Sep 12th 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 37)

This book is more about Jungians then about Jung himself. We could say that its main concern is critical deconstruction of some of the cardinal Jungian myths. Its main preoccupation is biographical production within the Jungian tradition. Strictly (methodologically) speaking, it is not a book about Jung himself. It is not another Jungian (or anti-Jungian) biography. Shamadasani's book is narratological (or we could even say critical) study about various Jungian discourses about Jung. Main object of his interest is narrative organization (with all its possible falsifications) of Jung's life. He is, in his own way, analyzing coherence and credibility of all that texts. In some very important points of his work it could be easily said that he is trying to safe Jung from his own biographers.

Carl Gustav Jung was one of the greatest psychologists of the last century. He was (and in some points he is still) highly relevant theoretician. He was very influential practitioner. Among many other things, he is a fonder of one of the most influential schools of dynamic psychology. His theoretical considerations about structure and dynamics of personality, and about the process of the personal individuation, are well known and very often related to Jung's own personal experiences. The originality of his thinking, his clear and convincing style, his fresh and practically valid conceptions, makes him still very present and undoubtedly live among great number of modern practitioners and theoreticians of various orientations.

In many points, Jung's biography is an important part of Jungian ideology. His own life is seen as the best possible illustration of his theory. So, we could say, being Jungian implies living Jungian way of life. And of course, no wonder; Jung's own life is (by many Jungian authors) seen as something that could be understood as the first archetypal pattern of such life.  One can guess -- there is (there must be) a lot of idealization and mystification in discourse like this. In actual discourse of his followers and his biographers, Jung's name is often evoked to denote a whole host of cultural, religious, philosophical, political, and psychological issues as a kind of shorthand. Discussions that appear to be ostensibly about him may, on closer examination, carry scant relation to historical actuality.

As a result of this, we are faced today with a serious predicament. Currently, vast sectors of the public are unable to distinguish between functionalized accounts of Jung from the historical figure, due to the myths, fictions, and errors that abound in the profusion of literature about him. This situation is compounded by the dearth of reliable historical and biographical information about him and the insufficiently realized fact that many manuscripts, seminars, and thousands of letters still remain unpublished.

Just for example, there are many problems with famous text of Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections. As it is well known, this book is officially attributed to Jung himself and to Aniela Jaffe. Two strata of alternations in this text need to be distinguished. The first stratum consists in the manner in which Jaffe utilized materials from her interviews with Jung, and edited the manuscripts of Jung that she utilized. The second stratum consists in changes made between the first manuscript she prepared and the published version. Many people were involved in the second stratum of changes. A number of alternations of the manuscript were made at the request of a representative of the Jung family at a late stage of the editorial process. A line by line comparison of the protocols with subsequent manuscripts and the published German and English versions, together with the study of editorial correspondences, shows that the bulk of the deletions and changes lie in the first stratum, i.e., between protocols Jung's manuscript, and first German manuscript. While statements in the protocols that appear in the published version are generally reliably reproduced, in many cases the context, mood, and associative connections are lost. Whole sequences are remade with elements drawn from different sources in a form of a mosaic work. This reordering often recasts the meaning of statement. In places, sentences spoken by Jung in various contexts and months apart were joined together to form a sequence of paragraphs.

Shamdasani is well informed in all of the Jungian matters -- he knows theory, he knows history. His style is well balanced, coherent, and easy to follow. This very interesting book is logically composed, eloquent, and well documented.  I believe that it will have positive reception among the analytical psychologists (Jungians) and also among those that are in some other way related to Jung's personality and to his doctrines.



© 2006 Petar Jevremovic


Petar Jevremovic: Clinical psychologist and practicing psychotherapist, author of two books (Psychoanalysis and Ontology, Lacan and Psychoanalysis), translator of Aristotle and Maximus the Confessor, editor of the Serbian editions of selected works of Heintz Kohut, Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein, author of various texts that are concerned with psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature and theology. He lives in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.


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