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Jung: A Biography Hardcover – November 1, 2003

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Jung: A Biography + Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.7) + Man and His Symbols
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 860 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st Printing edition (November 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316076651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316076654
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,205,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jung's shade would be content with Bair's biography, which in bulk and detail suggests that there is little more to say. Lucid and persuasive, the National Book Award-winning biographer of Beckett strikes a balance between damage control and deification, for Jung's ambition, arrogance and lack of generosity tend now to obscure his originality as a thinker and his impact on theories about why we dream and how we think. While Bair provides perhaps more about almost every aspect of his youth, maturity, rivalries, renown and old age than we care to know, it takes an author's note and two long endnotes to realize how much censorship the Jung heirs still insist upon. Bair was, for example, denied access to the diaries of Jung and his mother, which were deemed "too private," and to the thousand letters between Jung and his devoted (yet mistreated) wife. Even so, through interviews, published documentation and the papers released to her, Bair has evoked the man in all his cynical self-interest, opportunism, moral ambiguity, paradoxical insecurity and charismatic hold on decades of disciples. How much a purported Swiss temperament of suspicion, exclusiveness and obsession with ancestral status influenced Jung's development is a fascinating thread winding through Bair's narrative, affecting his personal and professional relations. Freud, father figure and then foe, comes off badly as ambitious, arrogant, single-minded and vengeful. Bair's Jung is no saint, but he is less unpleasant and exploitative here than as portrayed in Frank McLynn's 1997 biography. The large hole in this large book is not biographical. Jung's significance has much to do with his theories of archetypes and the related power of the collective unconscious. One finishes the book without much explanation of either. 32 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

So many women flocked to Zurich to be analyzed by Carl Jung that they were punningly referred to as the Jungfrauen ("virgins," in German). The legendary analyst can't be accused of neglecting the opportunities to which, in the days before clear therapeutic boundaries were established, his charisma and their transference gave rise. And there are more serious dents to his reputation, including his decision to accept the presidency of a German analytic society in 1933—he remained until 1940. Bair, the author of exhaustive biographies of Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir, has turned her research skills to clarifying these, and other, controversies, including Jung's famous split with Freud, in 1913 (they disagreed on the primacy of the sex drive). The result is largely balanced and thorough, though Bair's perhaps excessive focus on the minutiae of Jung's life keeps her from illuminating the ideas and the analytic legacy of the man who invented such concepts as introversion, extroversion, and the collective unconscious, and was able to blame an overactive anima for his womanizing.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Customer Reviews

Deirdre Bair's book is masterful historical biography.
W. S. McKenzie
I have consulted all the biographies of Carl Jung available in Spanish, and some of the existing in English, and this one is undoubtedly the best.
Amazon Customer
I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to know more about the man and his life.
Maple Moriji

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on December 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Bair's biography of Jung is a well-written but ultimately rather disappointing book, not up to the high standard Bair set for herself in her earlier biographies of Beckett and de Beauvoir. Her treatment here is so replete with detail about Jung's life that it sometimes seems slightly obsessive; the opening chapter on Jung's grandparents and parents, for example, offers way more information than the typical reader is likely to want or need. But there's little effort in all the minutiae to offer analysis or even description of Jung's thought. At best, Bair throws in a short paragraph every other chapter or so that summarily announces a central Jungian concept. But even then, the paragraph is frequently a quotation, laden with jargon that hasn't been explained. This seems strange, given that Jung himself insisted that inner life was constitutive of his outer one. The upshot is that the reader who knows little about Jung's psychology will walk away from the book with his/her ignorance pretty much intact. This is frustrating.
One thing that the book does accomplish is to give the reader a good idea of the terrible jockeying for intellectual authority that consumed the Viennese Freudian school as well as the Zurich Jungian school. The life of the mind, at least in the context of early twentieth-century psychoanalysis, comes across as cutthroat and down-and-dirty, with both Freud and Jung seeming pretty shameful. Here's where good discussions of the intellectual issues at stake would've been helpful. In their absence, the major players in this story come across as pretty cynical.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Shareen Brysac on November 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It might be expected that Bair, the author of two feminist biographies (Anais Nin and Simone de Beauvoir) would have an interesting take on the women in Carl Jung's life. And it is these portraits of Jung's mother, the "strange and mysterious Emilie, his wife, Emma, patient and mistress Toni Wolff, therapist and OSS spy, Mary Bancroft , and his American patient and publisher, Mary Mellon, that Bair excels. In addition, Bair has mined the archives to give a fair-minded appraisal of Jung's complex and compromising relation to the Nazis and, above all, what it meant for Jung to be Swiss. Jung was a complicated man and this is a compelling book. This will be the definite biography for years to come.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By H. Alkimir on March 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
C.G. Jung spoke about his number one and number two personalites, one corresponding to his physical/outer life experiences and the other to his psychological/inner life experiences. Like some of the editorial reviews above, I found Bair's biography to be sorely lacking in coverage and understanding of this second and most important aspect of Jung's life and work. The following quote he used in Memories, Dreams, Reflections to describe someone else could just as easily be applied in this case:

"Without the psyche there would be neither knowledge nor insight. Yet nothing was ever said about the psyche. Everywhere it was tacitly taken for granted, and even when someone mentioned it...there was no real knowledge of it but only philosophical speculation which might just as easily take one turn as another. I could make neither head nor tail of this curious observation" (MDR,98).

Look up "psyche" in the index of Bair's biography and you'll make the following unbelievable discovery: it's not there. She has written a biography on psychology and somehow left out the psyche, its most essential aspect.

After reading Bair, I picked up Sonu Shamdasani's "Jung Stripped Bare By His Biographers, Even." Rather than containing a heavy dose of vitriol, it is a very level-headed overview of biographical writing in general as well as of many of the bios on Jung up to the current one under discussion. Shamdasani proceeds to attack this latest biography from his carefully laid foundations. Highly erudite and equally highly readable.

In the case that you do decide to read Bair's book, I would label Shamdasani's book a "must-read" as well.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Louis I. Jaffe on March 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Some have knocked this latest bio of C.G. Jung for not explicating his philosophy. But that is precisely one of its strengths! There are innumerable books that try to explain Jung's thought. Bair's focus is on Jung's life, told objectively, with particular attention to the many controversies about him that persist to this day. She doesn't flinch from such tough issues as his rumored womanizing or his alleged support for the Nazis. (On which point she reveals, among other surprises, that Jung actually worked as a special agent for the U.S. in Switzerland during WWII, reporting to Allen Dulles, future head of the CIA.) Unlike such writers as Richard Noll in "The Jung Cult," her goal isn't to vilify her subject. Ultimately she pictures a man who was far from perfect but deserved his place among the great thinkers. A must for anyone interested in Jung.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By W. S. McKenzie on June 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I picked up Deirdre Bair's book "Jung: A Biography" because of my long held interest in 20th century European history, particularly the halcyon years before World War I. Certainly Carl Gustav Jung made a significant impact on European intellectual culture over is long life (1875-1961). Our very language is enriched by terms derived from his work: "archetype", "collective unconscious", "introvert" and "anima". The impact of psychoanalysis extended so far beyond the clinical interpretation and treatment of mental disorders that by 1935 "Politicians were being psychoanalyzed by reporters in the daily newspapers, the literary world was entranced with the possibilities the new science offered for individual creativity, and critics in every field were busy applying and misapplying its doctrines to many disparate genres and disciplines".
Deirdre Bair's book is masterful historical biography. Anyone with a serious interest in the evolution of psychological theory, treatment, and philosophy will benefit from this work. She explains the man and the people around him, his peers - particularly his relationship with Sigmund Freud -- , his travels, and professional activities. The book is monumentally detailed as evidenced by the 200 pages of notes and is a great source for understanding the publication and translation issues in bringing his major works to publication. The World War II period was particularly interesting, when Jung who was suspected as a Swiss German of being a Nazi sympathizer, actually was providing analysis of the German leadership to Allen Dulles.
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