Review of Linda Hopkins and Steven Kuchuck’s (Eds.) Diary of a Fallen Psychoanalyst: The Work Books of Masud Khan 1967-1972 (London: Karnac Books, 2022), ISBN 978-1-913494-65-0, 364 pages, $60 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-913494-66-7, Kindle, $49.09, Paperback, $60.

The Diary of a Fallen Psychoanalyst: The Work Books of Masud Khan 1967-1972 is a significant accomplishment. It is a unique, thought-provoking work that allows us to look over the shoulder of an originative figure in psychoanalysis as he writes daily journal entries about the world and his own sensibility. Also, it contributes to the anamnesis of a troubling episode in the history of psychoanalysis.

Masud Khan, the inheritor of a feudal estate in the Punjab (once part of India, now in Pakistan), was for a time considered a potential heir to the creative leadership of psychoanalysis. Notably, in 1975, Erik Erikson is reported to have said: “The next decade in psychoanalysis belongs to Khan” (Hopkins, 2006, p. 253). Khan’s consummate editorial work remains unquestioned: this included influential editorship of The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis as well as the compilation, organization, and referencing of the otherwise scattered articles of the reticent Donald Winnicott. His own writings, except for his last controversial book, are acknowledged as brilliant and original, particularly regarding the schizoid personality and the nature of perversion. He has been the subject of three biographies, the last of which, by Linda Hopkins, is in itself an achievement of biographical research and objective narration.

How is it possible that Khan is barely mentioned these days? Or worse, is quickly dismissed as “anti-Semitic”? Khan was incorrigible: He was outspoken with behavior to match; his insights and actions could range from provocative to outrageous to unethical (including affairs with patients). However, he was not called into account formally by the British Psycho-Analytical Society until his final, strangely self-destructive book, When Spring Comes: Awakenings in Clinical Psychoanalysis (1988), lent itself to the charge of

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anti-Semitism. This charge was mistakenly based on the misreading—as a statement of Khan’s personal opinion—of a shocking (but clinically successful) analytic intervention (Orcutt, 2019). The charge of anti-Semitism spearheaded the professional exile of analysis’ problem child and has cast even his substantial contributions into obscurity ever since.

The Work Books (especially read in tandem with Hopkins’ biography) invite us to reach our own conclusions. We are introduced first-hand to Khan’s piercing perceptiveness, self-importance, haughty condescension, and unexpected empathy, his dogmatic assessments that are nonetheless open to new experience, his capacity for childlike enthusiasm, and his ultimate vulnerability (e.g., “…the pent-up fear and pain will always spill into rage at others,” p. 268). What emerges is a sense of Khan’s personal force, pushing and pulling at the reader and skillfully retained in the masterful editing of Hopkins and Kuchuck.

This impressive editing had unique literary and historical challenges of its own. The 359-page volume is winnowed from the first 14 of Khan’s 39 volumes of personal observations and reflections from 1967 to 1980 (4,000 pages in all!). The result is seamless and steadily draws together a unified sense of its complicated subject. In addition, this book represents a literal rescue operation. The one surviving set of The Work Books copies barely escaped both accidental and intentional loss—from random handling and the deliberate destruction in 2019 of the remaining Khan archives. The editors deserve our thanks for their dedication and outright heroism in preserving this contribution to a dramatic passage in psychoanalytic history.

The Work Books, like Khan himself, first present themselves as intriguing parts of a puzzle waiting to be fully assembled. We see Khan as a shrewd observer and participant in the psychoanalytic scene (in England, France, the United States, and Germany), with his colleagues (including Winnicott, Klein, Anna Freud, Balint, and André Green), in his involvement with the arts (as represented by friends such as Julie Andrews and the Redgraves, his prima ballerina wife, Svetlana Beriosova, and his own immersion in literature, Shakespearean theater, and refuge in painting and decoupage), and in contemplation of the nature of the world and its politics (especially the personally felt encounter of East and West). But beneath all this activity and bravado, there is a growing undertone of feeling—an isolation and sadness, which the editors describe as

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“A Muslim man without a country…” who for a while was “…the centre of international psychoanalysis and perhaps the most popular writer and speaker in that world” (pp. xiii-xiv). This perception deepens as we follow Khan’s close relationship with Winnicott, his anxious concern with Winnicott’s physical fragility, and then Winnicott’s loss—one of a devastating sequence of losses that leaves Khan feeling “empty and alone” (p. 357).

Volume 2 of The Work Books is promised, and perhaps time will tell the full story of this paradoxical figure who has been simultaneously admired and reviled. For now, we are left to consider a closing entry in The Work Books that speaks to the paradoxical tension felt by many who retained their devotion to Khan despite their dismay: “Love has such a small voice but much to say; while rage has vehement spread and range but in the end says so little” (p. 359).

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References:

  • Hopkins, Linda (2006). False self: The life of Masud Khan. Other Press. (Reissued 2022 by Karnac Books, London.)
  • Orcutt, Candace (2019). Masud Khan: The outrageous chapter four. The Psychoanalytic Review, 106(6), pp. 489-508.

Authors:

Candace Orcutt

Candace Orcutt, MA, PhD, is a clinical social worker and psychoanalyst, and author of The Unanswered Self: The Masterson Approach to the Healing of Personality Disorders (2021) and Trauma in Personality Disorder: A Clinician’s Handbook (2012). A former Associate of James F. Masterson, MD, she serves on the faculty of The International Masterson Institute, The New Jersey Institute for Training in Psychoanalysis, and is a Research Associate of the Psychohistory Forum. She may be contacted at .

How to Cite This:

Orcutt, C. (2023). Masud Khan: Paradox and enigma. Review of the book Masud Khan: Paradox and Enigma, by Linda Hopkins and Steven Kuchuck (2022). Clio’s Psyche, 29(3), 376-378.

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