‘A little dry’ – Hysteria by Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate

hysteria-for-blog1hysteriaAppignanesi’s latest contribution to the Graphic Freud series (see also: The Wolf Man) sees him collaborating with Oscar Zarate (whose book, The Park, we reviewed a wee while ago) and focusing on a decade or so between 1882 (when Freud was struggling in Vienna) and 1892 (when he was starting to make a name for himself), bookended by a ruminative Freud in London in 1938 (where he was taken, suffering from cancer, having fled the Nazis) and a frankly bizarre interlude in which he is visited by the ghost of Princess Diana.

Originally thought to be a female complaint (‘hysteria’ derives from the Greek, husteron meaning womb), Freud went on to demonstrate that it was a complaint that could be experienced by both men and women – although the satisfaction the climax of the book takes in Fried’s legacy would seem to be undercut by Una’s recent graphic novel Becoming Unbecoming, which seems to take issue with the existence of hysteria at all (Appignanesi and Zarate have Freud take a walk in the company of the people’s princess and remark upon the volume of modern complaints – anorexia, chronic fatigue, depression, immune system disorders, teenage suicide – and the default way in which we treat with pills). It would be interesting to have Hysteria and Becoming Unbecoming duke it out to see who is right.

As with Cronenberg’s movie on a not massively dissimilar subject, A Dangerous Method, Hysteria is a little dry. Both the art (which has a tendency to lapse into sketchbook territory at times) and the narrative (which fails to really ignite until the closing sections of the book) don’t seem to work to best advantage. If Hysteria was a pupil in a class, the report card would say: must try harder.

Any Cop?: A not entirely successful collaboration that never quite gets off the ground.


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