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Record of a FriendshipRecord of a Friendship
The Correspondence of Wilhelm Reich and A.S. Neill

Edited, with an Introduction, by Beverley R. Placzek

Paperback $32.00

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1981

"What held this friendship together for so long? The two men came from opposite ends of Europe and from vastly different social backgrounds. They were half a generation apart in age. And yet these two could talk to each other as no one else. Reich: "Please write more often, since you are one of the few to whom I can talk"; and Neill: "Forgive my grumble, but you are the only one to whom I can write." On the face of it, it was a most unlikely friendship. Opposites are said to attract, and certainly two more different men can scarcely be imagined: Reich, the Central European, intellectual, highly educated, enormously gifted, and of driving energy, who moved, thought, and worked always in high gear; Neill, the Scot, intelligent to be sure, even wise, but no intellectual, canny, humorous patient, and pragmatic."

       Beverley R. Placzek
       (from the Introduction)

Wilhelm Reich and A.S. Neill first met in Norway in 1936; they remained friends for over twenty years until Reich's death in 1957. Though they were separated for most of those years, a steady exchange of letters, back and forth across the Atlantic, stand as a record of a friendship between two remarkable men.

Neill, Scottish schoolmaster and child psychologist, was the founder of the radical school Summerhill. Reich was an iconoclastic psychoanalyst known for his unorthodox theories on society and sexuality. Both were deeply dedicated men, with a strong belief in the redemptive powers of unconstricted, natural development. Neill held Reich to be a genius whose work was bringing humanity closer to the goal of self-understanding and freedom. Reich valued Neill's experience as a pioneering educator and his extraordinary understanding of children.

Their letters chronicle the problem and joys of their work, their delight in the development of their children, their distress at what was happening in the world around them. The tone and content of each man's letters are as different as the men themselves. Neill's are filled with everyday things, his school activities, new of friends, variously humorous and pentetratingly realistic. Reich's are almost always about his work and the growing success and acceptance of his ideas. For all their warm friendship, the two often argued, sometimes hotly. Reich frequently lectured Neill--on his slowness to righteous anger, on the threat of Communism and Fascism--and reiterated his assertion of his own indifference to public acceptance. In later years, as Neill's left-wing sympathies kept him from visiting America and Reich's legal battles became ever more consuming, the two began to drift apart. Yet throughout, Record of a Friendship glows with their affection and the enrichment each brought to the life of the other.

Editor Beverley R. Placzek has worked in child education and psychology, and is the translator of several works from German to English.

Read an excerpt [PDF]



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