Otto Fenichel: the Biography
"In this day and age in particular, when psychoanalysis is in danger of falling apart in a tide of uncertainty, people like him are of enormous importance, and his death is a tragic loss," wrote Anna Freud after the untimely death of Otto Fenichel. Fenichel, who came from an assimilated Jewish family in Vienna, was not so much a rock of certainty in troubled times, but rather an untiring explorer in search of understanding both himself and the workings of the human soul. His biography exemplifies the fin-de-siècle generation born around 1900, constantly torn between the pursuit of progress and the longing for stability. Otto Fenichel (1897-1946) was an intriguing personality: a melancholic with a lust for life, a charismatic ladies' man with immense charm, as well as a great teacher and mediator between diverse factions of psychoanalysts. He played a vital role in preventing Freud's teachings being diluted within rival groups in Germany, and was subsequently crucial in furthering their development in America. Together with Wilhelm Reich, his friend but, later in life, opponent, he advocated a politically committed branch of psychoanalysis. Elke Mühlleitner's welcome biography of this great communicator is an important longoverdue chapter in the history of psychoanalysis.