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Masud Khan: The Myth and the Reality

Published Date: 9th August 2015

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Willoughby, Roger


Few psychoanalysts from the latter half of the twentieth century have been as intellectually prolific, charismatic and ultimately scandalous as Masud Khan. Clinical practice and teaching went alongside his authoring over 60 published papers, as well as numerous reviews, and editing significant portions of Winnicott’s literary output and that of other key luminaries within the psychoanalytical canon. Masud Khan: the Myth and the Reality is the first in-depth scholarly account of his life. It charts his beginnings in the Punjab, where he submerged himself in English literature during the turbulent decades before independence and partition, through his psychoanalytic apprenticeship with Anna Freud, Melanie Klein and D W Winnicott in post-war London and a spectacular climb to international prominence, to his final years of womanising, depression, alcoholism, and cancer. As the story of Khan’s life here unfolds, so to does consideration of his key ideas and papers. His early work includes  important discussions on the self, its development aided by the protective shield and distortion through cumulative trauma and perversion. Acutely aware of the potentially dislocating impact of others, the ways in which self-experience might be actualised, particularly through dreams and quiet fallow states, became an important theme in Khan’s subsequent writings. These and other rich topics, including his discussions of literature and culture, are reviewed here with their biographical roots clarified. In Masud Khan: the Myth and the Reality, Roger Willoughby pieces together Khan’s poignant and shocking story using various sources including personal letters, other archival material and interviews with his relatives,  friends and colleagues. This work, which has taken ten years to complete, allows a glimpse of both the historical reality and the pervasive personal and institutional myths that envelop ‘Prince Dr’ Masud Khan. Some of these myths Khan wove himself, others he was incorporated into; their aliveness today testifying to the enduring collusive lure of phantasy and wish fulfilment. Beyond that of its central character, the book offers an insight into the lives of Khan’s analytic contemporaries, of the institutions they participated in and of the wider society.


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