August 11, 2018

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hermine had enjoyed brief fame as the editor of a book purporting to be the diary of a young girl, illustrating the truth of Freud’s theories. Apparently it was well written, but it was quickly suspected of being a forgery, more a novel than a true document. She defended herself feebly against accusations of fraud, and the authors of her biography say that she was guilty of an error of judgment rather than of a true fraud. However, errors of judgment and fraud are not polar opposites, and passing off a work of fiction as a true record, together with outlandish theorizing, was Freud’s preferred method of communication. Lying, in fact, was the very foundation stone of psychoanalysis.

Still, one cannot help feeling a deep sorrow for Hermine Hug-Hellmuth. A gifted woman, she involved herself (as did many others, by no means stupid) in an arcane sect that contributed nothing to human understanding. Rather, the reverse: It erected elaborate screens of absurd theory between people and their proper self-reflection or self-examination. She seems to have led an extremely lonely life, having had no friends, and never having had a love affair. She was fully aware of the aridity of her own existence, for she directed that no one should study her life or writings after her death. And the only known picture of her is the police photo of her after she was found strangled in her flat.

Compassion is due her memory. As a friend of mine recently said to me, there is a lot of misery in the world, much of it self-inflicted. I no longer laugh or even smile when I think of Hermine Hug-Hellmuth.

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