In memory of Paul Parin

Paul Parin, Swiss born psychoanalyst, author, writer of critical essays in politics and culture, and one of the founders of Ethnopsychoanalysis died in Zurich on May, 18 at the age of 92.

He was a truly remarkable man. I had the privilege to meet him several times in person. He was a lively man, affectionate and sincere, and, above all, a gifted story-teller.

Born in 1916, Paul Parin grew up in a Slovenian manor as the son of a Jewish bourgeois family. He finished medical school in Zurich. During World War II he was a committed anti-fascist, actively involved in refugee-aid and a doctor with the Yugoslavian Liberation army. From 1946 until 1952, he specialized in neurology and trained in psychoanalysis in Zurich. In 1958, he was a founding member of the Psychoanalytical Seminary in Zurich.

I loved his memories "Untruegliche Zeichen von Veränderungen" (Unmistakable signs of change) where he - among other things - describes the emotional narrowness of his childhood and contrasts it with the vastness of the forests and the landscape. One of the pedagodical benefits he concedes to his rather despotic father is that he allowed the 13-year-old to set up a real library in one of the 40 rooms of the estate.

Together with his wife Goldy he undertook several scientific journeys to West-Africa, where they explored the question: Is psychoanalysis possible in societies different from the Western-European ones? Together with the psychoanalyst Fritz Morgenthaler, they combined psychoanalysis and anthropology, and applied the Freudian method and technique to ethnological research. As a result, several books were published.

One of the books from this era that impressed me most was "Die Weißen denken zu viel", (together with Fritz Morgenthaler and Goldy Parin-Matthey, in 1963) "White people think too much", which is, in essence the first documentation of a scientific method which has influenced the thinking and the research of a generation of psychoanalysts and ethnologists.

The title of this meanwhile legendary book stems from a quote by Dommo, a chief from Mali. He says: "The white people think too much, and then they do a lot of things; and the more they do, the more they think. And then they earn a lot of money, and when they have a lot of money, they are worried that the money might get lost. Then they think even more and make more money and they never have enough money. Then they're not settled any longer. That's why they're not happy".

Paul Parin was awarded the "Erich-Fried-Preis" in 1992; in 1997 he claimed the "Sigmund-Freud-Preis" for scientific prose of the "Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung", and in 1999 he received the "Sigmund Freud-Award of the City of Vienna". Paul Parin is an honorary doctor of Klagenfurt University in Austria.

Paul's wife (of 58 years) Goldy, died 12 years ago. They called each other fox and cat.

His notice of death says:
The fox has followed the cat for the big journey.

Thanks to krusenstern for the photo.


Rob Spence said...

I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of him until reading your post. Maybe he should have been featured in Cultural AmnesiaRob

francessa said...

Rob, nothing to be ashamed of. He was not very well known outside the ethnopsychoanalytical community. I was amazed to find out that only one of his books was translated into English (Fear Thy Neighbour As Thyself).

But you're quite right, and I think he would have fit in perfectly into Cultural Amnesia.

Rob Spence said...

I've just learned a new word as well! Thanks for educating me, Francessa!
I shall look out for that book to add to the towering TBR pile.

francessa said...

It was a pleasure, Rob! Maybe there should be a hyphen in-between?

It's a pity that the memories and narratives are not available in English.

Lydia said...

Whew, I'm glad that others hadn't heard of him, as this makes me feel a little bit better about my ignorance. He seems amazing, his work important. I am dying to know how it is that you met him in person!
This was a fantastic post.

francessa said...

Hi Lydia, thanks! I'm afraid a lot (almost everything except the book mentioned and some essays and articles) published by and about Paul Parin is in German. So you didn't have much chance to get to know him.

You'll get the specifics how I met Paul Parin via mail :-)

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I'm thankful to Lydia for steering me over here. I'm adding Parin's work to the list of books to pick up in Germany or Switzerland next time I'm there.

Hattie said...

Oops. Posted too soon. I'm not trying to be "Anonymous."

francessa said...

Hi Hattie, nice to see you here!

Do you speak German? And are you often going to Switzerland and Germany?

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