This book deals with the complex relationship between the highest form of human activity — creativity — and mental illness. The heroes of this book are brilliant geniuses in various fields: three writers, four painters and three musicians.
The common denominator of these figures is that they lived in Russia in the nineteenth century, a period of cultural and artistic blossoming. Besides the extraordinary creativity they had — each in his own domain — these great figures have another common denominator — their tragic fate. Two committed suicide, two became disabled with severe depression, two were addicted to alcohol, and another died from the complications of brain disease. These psychopathological processes led to the decline in their creativity and to their eventual deaths. However, their struggle with their inner "demons" is also largely what gave meaning to their lives, suffering and work.
The authors have demonstrated that in order to understand the nature and the complexity of their works of art, one must recognize the structure of their personalities and comprehend the various psychopathological components that affected their lives.
In this book, the authors draw upon examples of many psychopathological possibilities: developmental deprivation and early loss in childhood, psychiatric disorders such as mood and psychotic disorders, the influence of organic factors like brain disease (e.g., following an infection such as syphilis) or alcohol abuse, and the overall effect these factors had on the course of the subjects’ personal lives.
It is most ironic that the artistic works of these gifted but tortured, broken souls have uplifted and inspired generations of art lovers, bringing them immense pleasure and meaning. (Nova)
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