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In 1884, the distinguished German jurist Daniel Paul Schreber suffered the first of a series of mental collapses that would afflict him for the rest of his life. In his madness, the world was revealed to him as an enormous architecture of nerves, dominated by a predatory God. It became clear to Schreber that his personal crisis was implicated in what he called a "crisis in God's realm," one that had transformed the rest of humanity into a race of fantasms. There was only one remedy; as his doctor noted: Schreber "considered himself chosen to redeem the world, and to restore to it the lost state of Blessedness. This, however, he could only do by first being transformed from a man into a woman..."

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780940322202
ISBN-10: 094032220X
Format: Paperback
(203mm x 131mm x 127mm)
Pages: 488
Imprint: NYRB Classics
Publisher: The New York Review of Books, Inc
Publish Date: 1-Jan-2000
Country of Publication: United States


UK Kirkus Review » Novelist Antonia White wrote of her time in Bethlem asylum in the 1920s that 'It was as if she was both in the belly of the beast and also detached, observing the process of her madness...' But for a chilling, blow-by-blow account of what it is really like to be mentally ill and to be able to record it in minute detail, nothing has yet surpassed Shreber's Memoirs, first published in 1903. Shreber was born in 1842, became a judge, had his first nervous breakdown at 42 and subsequently returned to hospital at 51 for another nine years. His delusionary world called upon him to bring back to mankind the lost state of blessedness. In pursuit of this mission, he reveals an increadible structure of Gods, nerve language, 'rays', souls and soul murder. He is compelled to think incessantly, which results in his endlessly repeating the same phrases, bellowing loudly and grimacing. At the same time, he is able to write insightful and logical letters to his wife, suggesting a capability to retain slivers of sanity within madness. When does belief cross over into religious mania and madness? Schreber wanted to publish his memoirs both as a plea for his release and to raise doubts about whether his delusional system had a basis in truth. Had he really been granted a glance behind the veil of rationality? One of the most fascinating exercises is for the reader to try to relate the phantasmagorical experiences Schreber describes, to the more prosaic medical experts' reports covering exactly the same circumstances in the Addenda. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Daniel Paul Schreber

Daniel Paul Schreber (1842-1911) was the son of the preeminent nineteenth-century German medical authority on child-rearing. Before his mental collapse, he served as the chief justice of the supreme court of the state of Saxony. Rosemary Dinnage's books include The Ruffian on the Stair, One to One: Experiences of Psychotherapy, and Annie Besant.