NCLSN Correspondent Caroline Zilboorg writes:
Just before Christmas I signed a contract with Karnac Books, a division of Routledge, for my biography of the Russian-American psychoanalyst Gregory Zilboorg (1890-1959). I am delighted and encouraged to have the promise of publication as I write. I am now on Chapter 9 of a projected 17 chapters and feel that I am making good, slow but satisfyingly steady progress.
The current chapter, ‘Bloomingdale and Berlin’, covers 1926-1931– a fascinating period. After earning his American diploma in medicine from Columbia University, Zilboorg worked at Bloomingdale mental hospital in Westchester, then received a fellowship to spend 1928-1929 at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute– what a year to be in that city! This was Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin, a capital in ferment just before Hitler came to power. When the Nazis took over, the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute became the Göring Institute and the psychoanalysts with whom my father had worked all fled, mostly to the United States, where they would become my father’s life-long colleagues.
In July of 1929 Zilboorg attended the eleventh International Psycho-Analytic Congress in Oxford, where I’ll be in mid-March to do some research and to see the two colleges (Lady Margaret Hall and Queen’s) where sessions and receptions were held.
All this is a long way from Kiev, where the biography begins, and the two revolutions and the Russian front during the First World War, which are the subjects of early chapters. New York in the early 1920s and the immigrant experience are the background to Chapters 6 and 7. Ahead are chapters in which Zilboorg sets up in a private practice, works with patients who range from prisoners at Sing Sing to George Gershwin, Marshall Field and Lillian Hellman, travels professionally to South America and Europe, and converts to Catholicism. His work on schizophrenia is still widely respected, but he is best known for his historical writing, particularly his History of Medical Psychology and Mind, Medicine, and Man.
All this is also a long way from Richard Aldington… but in some ways not at all. I have been engaged in ‘life writing’ throughout my scholarly career and read a great deal about Freud and psychoanalysis when working on H.D. Aldington’s war on the western front and my work on that prepared me in many ways to deal with my father’s experience on the Russian side of the Eastern front. I spent a week at the Beinecke in October, where Zilboorg’s papers are and where I spent many weeks working on H.D.’s papers beginning in 1987. And biography is a wonderful art, one which inevitably begins and ends in the same place. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience of research and writing, and I hope that some of those who have read my work on Aldington will also be interested in this book.