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A new autobiographical work by one of the most original and controversial thinkers of our time.
"I looked up every day from behind the bars to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Her light shone brightly into a dark night." With these words, Wilhelm Reich described his experience as an "enemy alien" imprisoned on Ellis Island in the aftermath of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
American Odyssey, compiled from his correspondence and journals, chronicles Reich's first years in America. They were years of prodigious accomplishment in which he developed the orgone energy accumulator-the so-called orgone box; published his first books in English; made breakthroughs in his investigation of orgone energy in social pathology, physics, astronomy, and cancer; and interested none other than Albert Einstein in testing his theories. America brought a new marriage, a new son, a new group of students, and a new laboratory. But these were years of fierce struggle as well: the denial of an American medical license, the refusal of a patent on the orgone accumulator, and, finally, a slanderous article that would incite the Food and Drug Administration to the dogged attack on Reich that would continue until his death in another prison cell ten years later.
American Odyssey reveals more than a period in the life of an embattled scientist. It discloses the social and intellectual life of a country in a tumultuous time in history.
Reich, renegade psychoanalyst and former disciple of Freud, arrived in the U.S. in 1939, fleeing Hitler's Europe and charges of charlatanism in Oslo. He spent the next decade in Forest Hills, N.Y., where he married German-born socialist Ilse Ollendorff in 1945, one year after the birth of their son. This compilation of his letters and journal entries, which swing from messianic rant to astute cultural commentary, is a revealing autobiographical document that opens a window onto a tortured soul. Arrested by the FBI in 1941 as a "dangerous enemy alien," Reich, an ex-Communist, spent more than three weeks detained on Ellis Island. Suspecting that his immigrant ex-wife, Annie Pink Rubinstein, had badmouthed him to FBI agents, he writes of his rancor toward her and of his troubled relationship with their two daughters. Seeking scientific support for his orgone energy accumulator, a simple box that supposedly captured primordial cosmic energy, which he alleged could help in treating many diseases including cancer, Reich met with Albert Einstein in Princeton for four hours. Einstein subsequently broke off their correspondence, convinced he had found a mundane explanation for the phenomena observed. Reich's other correspondents include Summerhill's A.S. Neill, social philosopher Paul Goodman and civil libertarian Roger Baldwin. Turning away from politics, Reich focuses his wrath on "the average `little man'" whose conformity and psychological immaturity, he claims, make possible a Hitler or a Mussolini. He also discusses his move away from verbal psychoanalytic techniques to an emphasis on releasing energy blocks. Readers who can get past Reich's megalomaniacal posturing and quasi-scientific gobbledygook will be challenged by his forceful random thoughts on marriage, monogamy, fatherhood, suicide, war, Hitler, FDR, America, Nietzsche, Beethoven and sexual hypocrisy. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved