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And so Clara Geroe’s personal library landed in my storage unit. Her son’s family home is being cleared for sale in due course. He kept everything and now all is on its way to a new home. Some of it was distributed to her patients by Clara’s husband, Willi, after her death. He invited each to choose a book as a memento.

Libraries are personal collections of a life: books are connected with moments, an outcome of a small story that resulted in the decision to purchase, or borrow, a book. They are clues to a conversation, or a private moment. It is amazing to learn that Clara seems to have liked detective fiction. Or that she had an eye for political cartoons – at least she did when she visited Britain in 1961. There is a collection of books focussing on events during the holocaust – including an English edition of George Faludi, a Hungarian poet and essayist’s account of his experiences during the war years. In Australia, a thoughtful purchase made during her holiday in Queensland, was Arthur Groom’s 1949 One mountain after another – a travel book, perhaps, but also a commentary on settler’s role in indigenous dispossession, and the environment.

Clara’s professional books date from the early 1920s when she was doing her medical training. And so we find a handbook on medicines and mixes in Hungarian. She was interested in psychosomatics, was a student of Pal Ranschberg and contributed a paper to the neurology section of Ranschberg’s Fetschrift: Psychologische Beobachtungen bei Hyperventilationsversuchen an Epileptiken : Psychological observations on hyperventilation experiments on epileptics ( Google translate). Leopold Szondi was also a contributor to this section with a paper: Uber die klinische und pathogenetische Zweiteilung der Neurasthenie – in English, About the clinical and pathogenic division of of neurasthenia. It is worth noting that by 1928 when the Fetschrift was held, Clara was undertaking her psychoanalytic training. That three of the four sections of the Fetschrift focussed on Modern experimental psychology, Child psychology and pedagogy, and child psychotherapy, show that this arena of psychology was well developed when she decided to focus on child analysis and pedagogy during the 1930s. She brought her collection of Hungarian journals in this field with her to Australia in 1940, anticipating that she would develop this area of practice.

Scattered through the collection along with articles in Hungarian – including papers gifted to Szondi and to herself – how did she come by Szondi’s copy? – are various psychoanalytic journals from the 1940s. Possibly they landed on her book case and stayed for ever: The British Journal of Medical Psychology and The International Review of Psychoanalysis, among them. Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham’s publication: on Children and War – in German. And of course Sandler’s final publication of the child psychology indexing committee. Some publications by Freud: Moses and Monotheism, and another of his selected essays, gifted by Kata Lev,y are also there. Towards the end of her life, she seems to have become interested in feminist literature although these books are not signed as being hers. Then there is Bowlby, Melanie Klein, Klein and Riviere, Bettelheim, and even Russian text – in English – on Pavlovian Psychology published in 1950. This is an important book for our understanding of the Stalinization of psychology in Hungary as well as the USSR. And more… Clara was interested in socialist thought. She was also intrigued by anthropology.

A most interesting item among all of this is the 1935 copy of the International Psychoanalytic Association Membership list. There are no representatives from Australia in the British section although Mary Barkas, from New Zealand, who became an Associate in 1923, is listed. Roy Coupland Winn from Sydney was either about to become an Associate, or was too late for the listing. In the Hungarian section Clara Lazar ( she did not use her married name) is listed as a full member of the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society alongside 20 other full members – among them the Balints, the Levys, Vilma Kovacs, Hermann, Hollos, Almasy, Geza Roheim. Two Associates, Edit Gyomeroi and Maria Kircz-Takasz are listed. Endre Peto who emigrated to Australia in 1949, and Erszebet Kardos are absent… perhaps they were still in training.

These books are the relicts of a life, indicative of the complexity for a biographer – neither to rehabilitate nor damn, but to understand how a person represented herself to herself and others, within the realm of her particular social unconscious.