Lost Prince: The Unsolved Mystery of Kaspar Hauserby Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, J Moussaieff Masson
Kept in a dungeon for his entire childhood, Kaspar Hauser turned up in Nuremberg in 1828 when he was sixteen, barely able to talk or walk, a "wild child." Within a few years, his gentleness, simplicity, and profundity captured the interest of all Europe. Hauser was murdered just a few years later, in 1833. Who was Kaspar Hauser? Was he German royalty as many have… See more details below
Kept in a dungeon for his entire childhood, Kaspar Hauser turned up in Nuremberg in 1828 when he was sixteen, barely able to talk or walk, a "wild child." Within a few years, his gentleness, simplicity, and profundity captured the interest of all Europe. Hauser was murdered just a few years later, in 1833. Who was Kaspar Hauser? Was he German royalty as many have believed? Why was he kept in a dungeon all those years, and who murdered him? Jeffrey Masson, whose work on the reality of child abuse in Freud's time created an explosion in the world of psychoanalysis, has discovered the earliest document on the Kaspar Hauser story - Georg Friedrich Daumer's notes of Kaspar Hauser's first two years in Daumer's house, long thought to be lost. On the basis of these notes and other documents, some previously unpublished, Masson provides the first complete English translation of one of the great works of German literature, Anselm von Feuerbach's story of Kaspar Hauser. Along with this translation, Masson includes a lengthy essay in which he explores many of the fascinating issues raised by the case. In this essay, Masson not only sheds light on Kaspar Hauser's identity and murder, but also provides new insights concerning language development, man's innate nature, and the long-term effects of trauma and abuse.
There has probably never been a child who so intrigued a continent as Kaspar Hauser. The subject of numerous books and films, this famous "wild child" surfaced in Nuremberg in 1828, a largely illiterate, unsocialized adolescent. He had no recollection of a family or a home. For over 12 years he had been imprisoned in a kind of cage, where he was fed only bread and water and denied all human contact. He never saw the face of his captor. Possibly the legitimate heir to the throne of Baden, he was murdered in 1832 by an unknown assailant. In an essay of about 70 pages, psychoanalyst Masson (coauthor of When Elephants Weep, 1995) combs through the available literature to differentiate apparently accurate accounts of Hauser's short life from those that are speculative and tendentious. He offers a credible if not conclusive theory about who murdered Hauser and why. The longest text in this volume is the first complete English translation (by Masson) of an account by Judge Anselm von Feuerbach, whose court had jurisdiction over the Hauser case. Also included is a translation by Masson of an autobiographical sketch by the child-man himself, who after his release apparently learned basic language skills remarkably well. Masson places Hauser's great suffering within the broader context of child abuse during the 19th and 20th centuries, which, he argues, was both widespread and almost universally denied. Unfortunately, he also digresses at points and introduces questionable data. For example, Masson (for whom sexual abuse of girls was a central tenet in his controversial l984 book The Assault on Truth) claims that "about 38 percent of women have been sexually abused by the time they reach the age of eighteen." But he offers no definition of "sexually abused" and no corroborating data.
However, Masson's examination will introduce many American readers to one of the great case studies of extreme cruelty and deprivation, and of the remarkable human capacity for adaptability.
- Free Press
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