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the Complete Review
the complete review - biography

Het seksuele bolwerk

("The Sexual Bulwark")

Harry Mulisch

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Title: Het seksuele bolwerk
Author: Harry Mulisch
Genre: Biographical
Written: 1973
Length: 197 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Das sexuelle Bollwerk - Deutschland
  • Het seksuele bolwerk has not been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

A : an exemplary biographical essay on Wilhelm Reich

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 27/6/1997 Ulrich Weinzierl

  From the Reviews:
  • "Trotzdem sei die eigenwillige Darstellung nachdrücklich empfohlen. (...) (M)it geradezu brutaler Schärfe wird das Schaffen des gesunden von dem des kranken Forschers geschieden. Und nicht zuletzt ist Das sexuelle Bollwerk ein Produkt der Aufklärung, das den Tendenzen zum Obskurantismus energisch widerspricht." - Ulrich Weinzierl, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) became, ultimately, a notorious figure. The third of the prominent Viennese psychoanalysts (after Freud and Adler) he went his own way after a brilliant and relatively traditional beginning, finally emigrating to the United States, developing his odd theories about orgone energy, and building machines to capture this mysterious substance. It was the sale of these therapeutic machines that was the subject of protracted legal troubles in his last years. The American Food and Drug Administration finally got him locked up at the end of his life, an ignoble conclusion to a bizarre and fascinating life.
       Reich's theories may sound nutty, but there is a great deal of wheat among the chaff. He was a great talent and his early work was widely admired. His writings on fascism, though also marked by his own peculiar style, are certainly significant and of value. Similarly his liberated attitude towards sexuality is of interest. His efforts in this field were in many respect groundbreaking, but the ever-increasing Nazi presence and influence in the German speaking world in the 1930's prevented the influence to be truly lasting.
       Regrettably Reich gets lost in what has been made of him -- he is almost impossible to take seriously any longer. Mulisch does an excellent job of describing the man's odd life and his theories (and his praxis), an objective view that probably does not appeal to either Reich's fans or his detractors. Mulisch, himself sexually very liberated (according to him, at least, as conveyed in the familiar autobiographical digressions that add to the entertainment value of the book), and an astute analyst of Central European fascism (his Daddy collaborated with the German occupiers in Holland, while Mommy was a Jew), is well-equipped to write such a biographical essay. Mulisch gives Reich his due while acknowledging that there was also a great deal of hokum to his later pseudo-science.
       Mulisch's analysis of Reich's legal problems with the American authorities is also exemplary. This alone should make the story appealing to an American audience (though it has, of course, been told in other Reichian biographies) -- it took the IRS to nail Capone and the FDA to get Reich !
       Mulisch also offers an analysis of Reich's last will and testament and the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust Fund that was set up according to it. An acerbic condemnation of how Reich's last wishes were not realized by those charged with seeing them put into practice, Mulisch presumably wins no friends among the true Reichian believers with this reckoning. Mulisch perhaps romanticizes Reich here, but it seems to us that there is little question that Reich's money, name, and theory were appropriated in a manner contrary to his express hopes and intentions. That's only our opinion, but Mulisch makes a solid case.
       An important book about an important man, offering a perspective otherwise not available in the US, we highly recommend the book. It is a shame that the book has not yet been translated.

       Note that the links provided below are those of convinced orgoneists, adherents of an interpretation of Reich's regrettably most influential idea. However, some other information can be found here (including good documentation of Reich's harassment by the American authorities, a copy of his will, and information about his earlier work). Mulisch's perspective is a decidedly different one (the proper and valid one, we believe), but it is one that is not otherwise represented on the internet (or in much of the voluminous Reichian literature).

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Het seksuele bolwerk: Reviews: Wilhelm Reich: Other books about Wilhelm Reich under review: Harry Mulisch: Other books by Harry Mulisch under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Harry Mulisch was born in 1927. One of the foremost post-war European authors he has written numerous international bestsellers. Ridiculously few of his works are available in English.

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