The Life and Times of Franz Alexander: From Budapest To California

Author(s) : Ilonka Venier Alexander

Part of The History of Psychoanalysis Series - more in this series

The Life and Times of Franz Alexander: From Budapest To California

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : August 2015
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 188
  • Category :
    Psychoanalysis
  • Catalogue No : 36646
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782202509
  • ISBN 10 : 1782202501
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Franz Alexander was the first graduate of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, the man who turned down Freud’s offer to enter into private practice in Vienna, and the man Freud told to go to America and spread the doctrine of psychoanalysis. He was also the grandfather of Ilonka Venier Alexander, the author of this remarkable account of one of the major figures of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century, set against the backdrop of the growth of analysis in America.

The book considers his personal and professional life, the role of family in his decisions, and how those decisions affected other family members. Themes touched on in this intimate and personal biography include family secrets and lies, the fear of discovery and the need to reinvent one’s past in order to survive, the importance of giving to society, and family reunification after decades of deceit and betrayal. All of these themes help to create a stunning portrait of a man who, as the author's mother once told her, was "as important to psychoanalysis as Elvis is to music". Franz Alexander's story is finally told here by those who really knew him.

Reviews and Endorsements

Read a review of this title in 'The Yarmouth County Vanguard (Canada)'

‘This personal and moving biography of one of the major figures in the history of psychoanalysis takes us from the intellectual society of pre-war Budapest to the shores of California. Although the format is biographical, this book reads more like a mystery, as the author peels away the many layers of her grandfather’s personal and professional life. Franz Alexander, or the man she affectionately calls “Big Papa”, though well known as a brilliant thinker, is revealed to be a loving, though at times distant, parental figure, who, for reasons known only to himself, chooses to conceal important facets of his family history. Through her research for the book, the author uncovers secrets and lies, which, perhaps in a process similar to psychoanalysis itself, leads her to what Franz Alexander would call a “corrective emotional experience” and a renewed and complete sense of identity. This book is an absolute page-turner that benefits from beautiful descriptive language, mystery, love, intrigue and a satisfying denouement. A compelling read!’
— Dr. Mimi Champagne, retired psychologist, Nova Scotia, Canada

‘Dr Franz Alexander was one of the great minds of psychoanalysis, but until now his story has never been told in detail. Ilonka Venier Alexander has written a book that brings a shining new light to the life of Dr Alexander, her grandfather. Told with a mix of historical fact, detailed insight and personal ancedotes, along with striking photographs, her book captures the spirit of the psychoanalytic movement as well as the lives of a man and his family who were at the heart of it.’
— Brian Oram, MSW, RSW

‘This book provides a special perspective on the family life and background of one of the pioneers of
psychoanalysis in the USA, against the backdrop of the major political and cultural upheavals taking place in Europe – the gathering storm of anti-Semitism and the rise of Hitler. Throughout we see some of the tensions and challenges reflected in Alexander’s personal and professional life as he makes a new life in the New World. One senses the author’s joy and admiration, and the impact he had on her, despite a few unanswered questions.’
— Brian Foley, MB, MRCPsych. FRCPC consultant psychiatrist, Cape Breton District Health Authority, Nova Scotia, Canada

About the Author(s)

Ilonka Venier Alexander is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist with thirty years' experience in the field of mental health. She had the opportunity to testify before the United States Congress in the early days of the HIV epidemic about its impact on Boston area veterans. For years her area of specialization was adults with a severe and persistent mental illness. Later in her career she helped to write the mental health standards for children and adolescents in Nova Scotia, at the time the only such standards in Canada. She received her Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California and is the granddaughter of Dr Franz Alexander, founder of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

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