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The Memoirs of a Sexologist: Discretion and Indiscretion
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I bought this book for reasons of sociological curiosity, but after a few chapters it was clear that it was going to exceed the meager use I expected to get out of it. The prose is lively, and even at this remove of more than half a century, Dr. Lenz's somewhat ribald sense of humor shines through the pages, as does his humanity, as well as his (by the light of the time) keen grasp of scientific and medical knowledge.
The good doctor claims his book is merely a document of the sexual life of Germans who came into his practice, or just into his orbit, during the years he worked as a physician and researcher for the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin, but the book is much, much more. The people Dr. Lenz treats aren't the two-dimensional case studies of Kraft-Ebing, but flesh and blood souls seeking help with their problems, ranging from common sexually-transmitted diseases to dangerous paraphilias and the desire to change their sex. Some of the treatments he mentions smack of quackery at this great remove (like replacing a man's testes with rabbit gonads to increase sex drive), but it must be remembered that the corpus of medical knowledge Lenz was working with was much smaller than that body of knowledge of which we can now avail ourselves. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but such honest, lucid, and compassionate writing that holds up so well after fifty years is rarer than hen's teeth.
Anecdotes are peppered throughout the text, stories about excursions to gay bars in Berlin as well as nudist retreats in the dense German woods, and there's a really fascinating detour into Herr Doktor Lenz's time as a house physician in a bordello set up to serve German soldiers fighting on the front in the Great War.
The book is longish, with something like thirty-five chapters, but each section has something to recommend it, some funny story or choice bit about his own sexual maturation, or a fascinating piece of medical knowledge. Progressives may bridle at the Doktor's mention of the "female sphere of life" as home and hearth, or of his contrast between "homosexuals and the normal," but it must be reiterated that Ludwig Lenz was quite progressive by the lights of his time, especially considering what was on the horizon for Germany in the near-future (re: Hitler and the Nazis).For an unrivaled look at the life, mind, and memories of a German expat banished by the Nazis, you could do no better (except for maybe George Grosz's memoirs). Highest recommendation.