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Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – January 31, 2000
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I existed frequently without a stomach.... In the case of any other human being this would have resulted in natural pus formation with an inevitably fatal outcome; but the food pulp could not damage my body because all impure matter in it was soaked up again by the rays.As Christianity alone could not explain what seemed to be happening to him, Schreber pieced together a complex theology involving a divided God with dark and light incarnations, whose "rays" and "nerves" interacted in various ways with humans. God was also his personal tormentor, in league with Flechsig to commit "soul-murder" by manipulating his nerves. Further, Schreber believed that he was being literally "unmanned" so that God could sexually violate him and conceive a new human race: "But as soon as I am alone with God ... I must continually or at least at certain times strive to give divine rays the impression of a woman in the height of sexual delight..."
Schreber had a hard time believing in the "fleeting-improvised-men" who flitted in and out of his life, and grew convinced that he was the only human left in a world of shadows. But he did know that something was wrong. He would hear the birds in the asylum's garden ask him, over and over, "Are you not ashamed?" And he was aware that his bellowing, banging on the piano, and other bodily manifestations of God's manipulation of his nerves (or "miracles") were startling to others, to say the least. Many of Schreber's delusions had to do with escaping his body--the constant babble of thousands of voices in his head were infuriating, as was his inability to cease thinking:
The sound which reaches my own ear--hundreds of times every day--is so definite that it cannot be a hallucination. The genuine "cries of help" are always instantly followed by the phrase which has been learnt by rote: "If only the cursed cries of help would stop."Memoirs of My Nervous Illness succeeds on many levels: as a memoir, as imaginative literature, and as a serious work of mythology. Flechsig makes a menacing and inscrutable villain, representing materialistic thinking and conventional reality--no help at all. Schreber, meanwhile, is the classic hero, struggling to stay sane in a cruel and capricious universe. --Therese Littleton
Top Customer Reviews
In this book, Schreber takes us into his world--the world of the genuine schizophrenic. He writes of the "little men" who come to invade his body and of the stars from which they came.
That these "little men" choose to invade Schreber's body in more ways than one only makes his story all the more harrowing. At night, he tells us, they would drip down onto his head by the thousands, although he warned them against approaching him.
Schreber's story is not the only thing that is disquieting about this book. His style of writing is, too. It is made up of the ravings of a madman, yet it contains a fluidity and lucidity that rival that of any "logical" person. It only takes a few pages before we become enmeshed in the strange smells, tastes, insights and visions he describes so vividly.
Much of this book is hallucinatory; for example, Schreber writes of how the sun follows him as he moves around the room, depending on the direction of his movements. And, although we know the sun was not following Schreber, his explanation makes sense, in an eerie sort of way.
What Schreber has really done is to capture the sheer poetry of insanity and madness in such a way that we, as his readers, feel ourselves being swept along with him into his world of fantasy. It is a world without anchors, a world where the human soul is simply left to drift and survive as best it can.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not finished yet. A very hard read. Not enthused about the writing style. I've been reading it for several months now and just can't quite get it done. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Pam
Freud began his analysis of Schreber's writings by announcing that Schreber's father was a benevolent educator and reformer. Actually, he was a methodical and imaginative sadist. Read morePublished on April 15, 2014 by Shelley Isom
i reckon the discussion around this book is far more interesting and readable than the text itself - i was unable to get past a couple of pagesPublished on January 16, 2014 by Julie A. Turner
An extraordinary account by Daniel Paul Schreber of his breakdown, his "hallucinations", his journey. A classic book in psychiatry. It is thrilling. Read morePublished on January 16, 2010 by M Eigen
One of my most cherished books in my library. This book is easy to misunderstand, in its intent and its revelation. Read morePublished on April 22, 2009 by William Melendez
This is not really a review, but an observation. For fans of the Alex Proyas movie "Dark City," the character of Dr. D.P. Read morePublished on January 15, 2009 by Damdifino