Monday, March 19, 2012

Jung and the Novel- The World is Made of Glass

In a continuation of my blog series, Jung and the Novel, taken as an idea from David Ward-Nanney, author of Powder Dreams, (a contemporary novel which features a Jungian style analysis. David was the first to write a blog series on Jungian related novels and inspired me to write this series, as well as to read, Pilgrim by Timothy Findley (which I reviewed in a previous post) and  The World is Made of Glass, two novels which feature the noted pioneer of Psychoanalysis, Carl Gustav Jung as a main character.
The World is Made of Glass  is written by Australian author, Morris West (also author of The Devil's Advocate) who takes the reader on a wild ride as it does Carl Jung, when an unnamed woman is referred to Jung for psychotherapy.  The timing is dangerous and catalytic for both patient and analyst, since Jung has recently broken his strong alliance with his mentor, Freud as well as broken of his intimate relationship with Sabrina Speilrien, even though he still stays in touch with this patient turned lover, in addition to beginning a lifelong working and intimate relationship with Toni Wolff. 
Let's just say that both client and rock each others' worlds.
At first it surprised me that any writer would have the guts to employ the esteemed Professor Doctor C. G. Jung as a character in his novel, especially at one of the most fragile times of this highly respected psychiatrist.  But when I found out West had also had the guts to feature the devil in a novel, Jung seemed to be an easier subject.  West makes Jung so three dimensional, so well -rounded, that we are not only in the therapeutic cocoon of his study at his home at Ksnacht now that he has resigned his University teaching position and his position as a psychiatrist at the Burgholzi clinic, mostly to analysis himself as he faces the crisis of this breaks ups as well as a breakdown of his own psyche.
Beneath the fast paced riveting story, which is as much a detective story as it is a drama, West explores some highly important themes related to the as yet relatively unformed process of analysis transference and counter transference, non-judgmental acceptance on the part of the therapist in order to precipitate trust and healing, the willingness to be flexible and human within the confines of the therapeutic relationship and try whatever method may best suit the highly individualistic nature of their patient and this particular rocky and inflammatory times of their lives.

Like The Devil's Advocate, The World is Made of Glass is an incendiary novel.  It never simmers or offers simple heat from banked coals, but roils and flares, igniting not only Jung's passions but also his insights and illumination, even when dealing with the deepest depravities of the human psyche. Despite his Jung's own dissipated state, he attempts to offer healing to this damaged and suffering woman, over an intensive period of  days in which they work for almost full day sessions.Since the sessions are held at his him, Emma , Jung's wife also connects with Magda, eventually becoming her friend. West's characterizations of both Emma and Jung, famous and often written about, yet in these pages they come alive, well rounded people with their foibles and strengths fully developed.  We laugh at Jung's wit and cringe at his peasant crudeness, we feel sorry for Emma as she must deal with the intrusion of Toni Wolfe on her family, yet we see the potential of her future as both an analyst and a writer. 

The story takes place in 1913 and is based on a very brief description of a case Jung writes about in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections.Magda Liliane Kardoss von Gamsfeld, as we come to know her, is a wealthy Russian, who has dallied in many aspects of the human existence from managing a highly respected horse breeding farm to traveling throughout Europe during the Belle Epoque to satisfy her ever escalating need for sexual encounters, which as she grows older, must become more dangerous. She is now widowed, estranged from her only daughter, bereft of the one woman who was like a mother to her,  and is hunted down by a ruthless and powerful arms dealer, hoping to capitalize and even help instigate the First World War, who is now intent on her death, because she won't become a spy, using her sexual prowess and connections.
This is heady stuff for the doctor living in the relative neutrality and intelligentsia nestled within the pristine beauty of  Swiss landscape, even though he's already having dreams of destruction and chaos.  
due to the novels construction which offers a chapter from offering her services as Magda's point of view alternating with a chapter form Jung's point of view.  What a instructive way to learn about the inner workings withing the sacred alembic of the therapeutic relationship.

West has taken on a daunting challenge and rises to it with flare, even shock at times, yet the story is believable, fascinating and an interesting take on the enigmatic figure of Jung. When people would come to visit Jung form all over the world after reading his books, some in such a state of awe, they couldn't speak, Jung would be come flustered and even, rude demanding that they just view him as a man. I'm afraid that was how would I be, if I'd been lucky enough to live during that time and meet Jung. But West did not put Jung on a pedestal, nor was he afraid of Jung's complex mind. West treated Jung as just a man. A man who could be frustrated and blustery, compassionate and wise, defeated and elated. What better way to understand Jung in all his humanity?

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