Books by John E. Mack (ii)

Nightmares & Human Conflict

Nightmares and Human Conflict has several purposes. One of them naturally is to provide a general survey of the subject, to try to understand why these particularly disturbing dreams occur, and to set forth the various determinants of the overwhelming anxiety experienced in them. Since the nightmare is the principal condition in which dreaming and severe anxiety occur simultaneously, it affords an excellent opportunity to study the relationship between these two universal human phenomena. Finally, consideration is given to the relationship that nightmares may have to certain forms of creativity and to various pathological states, especially acute psychoses.

This book is based primarily on my own clinical experiences, and actual case examples from child and adult patients in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy form the principal documentation. Other appropriate material from experimental research, literature, biography, and the psychopathology of daily experience of nonpatients has also been drawn upon.

Publisher: Columbia University Press
Published April 1989
with new introduction
258 pages
Orig. Publisher: Little, Brown
Orig. Published 1970 

Reviews of Nightmares & Human Conflict

Nightmares and Human Conflict is in the best tradition of psychoanalysis. It is well written. It is full of interesting and well documented clinical observations.”
The New Yorker

“A work in which the raw data of human experience are incorporated into the body of psychoanalytic theory and practice with a rare, integrative skill. …The entire book is replete with clinical material that is pertinent, beautifully illustrative, and recorded with sensitivity and eloquence.”
—Psychiatry and Social Review
“The major work on the nightmare which captures the personal element in the experience. Dr. Mack’s thoughtful presentation of the history of the nightmare and his sensitive use of case material makes this a work of extraordinary value to the practitioner, the dream scientist, and the sufferer with nightmares.”
—Dr. Milton Kramer
Sleep Disorders Center of Greater Cincinnati

The Alchemy of Survival

One Woman’s Story

Rita Rogers grew up in the Bukovina, the once-idyllic heartland of Eastern Europe. As a teenager, she was deported by the Nazis to a transport camp in the Ukraine. There she saved her family from the death camps by impersonating a foundry worker. After years of stateless limbo as a refugee and hair-raising escapes from two Communist regimes, she survived to use her experiences as a child psychiatrist to heal both individual and international conflict.

In this singular collaboration, John E. Mack, psychoanalyst, and Rita S. Rogers, child psychiatrist, together tell the story of her life and explore the mystery of human survival.

Both biography and autobiography, The Alchemy of Survival is a unique addition to the literature of the Holocaust as well as a deeply inspiring story.

Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Radcliffe Biography Series
Published: June 1988
238 pages, 12 images 

Table of Contents


Home and Childhood in Radauti
A Jewish Family in the Bukovina
Mogilev Podolskiy
A Year in No Man’s Land
Prague: A Taste of Freedom
Vienna: Displaced in a Divided City
Schloss Tivoli to Camp Rainbow: The Search for a Country
America and Psychiatry
Psychiatry and Foreign Affairs
The Alchemy of Survival
About the Authors

Reviews of The Alchemy of Survival

“Internationally known child psychiatrist Rogers grew up in Romania, the daughter of a prominent Jewish family. Her idyllic childhood came to an abrupt end with the arrival of Nazi troops, but the clever, courageous, and indomitable Rita survived to attend the University of Vienna Medical School, emigrate to America, and marry an American. Her story is indeed inspiring but told rather disjointedly by Harvard psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Mack. While his focus is on “the way she transcended personal suffering, converting her experiences into resources from which to draw,” his explication of Rogers’s professional life seems overly sketchy. Recommended, however, as another moving Holocaust survival story, and an exceptional one.”
Library Journal

“A fascinating story of the survival of one remarkable woman through the many terrible transformations of wartime central Europe.”
— Dorothy Hodgkin, Ph.D.,
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

“Tells us much of a greatest value about surviving, and then bringing meaning to that survival.”
—Robert J. Lifton, M.D. 

“Extraordinary work … Rita’s life is a paradigm, for individuals and nations, of the transmutation of conflict and suffering into workable existence and coexistance. Superb.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“A spiritually uplifting experience.”
Southern CA Psychoanalytic Society Bulletin

“What a wonderful book!”
—Beth Winship, Boston Globe

“A sensitive portrayal of a courageous psychiatrist’s life, and as well, a social history of the twentieth century, through the rendering of one woman’s moral and psychological determination to persist, no matter what the odds.”
—Robert Coles, M.D.

“Gives a human dimension to this most dreadful of episodes and, in doing so, makes feeling replace numbness.”
— Joseph P. Lash,
author of Eleanor and Franklin 

“An extraordinary life story, movingly told in the dual voices of narrator and subject, of the crucial twenty-year slice of interwoven personal and East European history.”
— Viola Bernard, M.D.,
Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry,
College of Physicians and Surgeons,
Columbia University.

“Fills many gaps in the story of Holocaust experiences. . . Most of all, the book captures the greatness of human beings, the grandeur of one’s potential and fulfillment in spite of tragedy and life’s most cruel vicissitudes.”
— Tess Wise,
Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center

Vivienne: the Life and Suicide of an Adolescent Girl

It is a rare opportunity for suicidologists to get a detailed, poignant, and clearly stated personal description of an adolescent’s psychological condition leading to completed suicide. The book, Vivienne, The Life and Suicide of an Adolescent Girl, is one such remarkable, monumental, and unusual account. By combining numerous poems and letters written by Vivienne with sensitive interviews of her family, the book offers insights into a teenager’s increasing depression and evolving wish to commit suicide.

On the day of her suicide, Vivienne left a poem on her night stand written three years before, but significant for its message that “perhaps we all need to be reminded now and then”:

“A star is unlit
A child unborn.
The cry inside
The tear. These things
Shall make you free.

I know there is a sun
Before daybreak;
I am certain that
The flower lives
Before it ever
That there is a soul in me.

I discovered and wrote this for myself three years ago — but perhaps we all need to be reminded now and then.”

[Above synopsis is an excerpt from a review by Cynthia R. Pfeffer, M.D., 1982]

Publisher: Little, Brown
Published 1977 

Reviews of Vivienne

“Why Vivienne? And why more than 2,000 other teenage suicides in a given year? With the collaboration of the bewildered parents, the authors piece together the final three years of Vivienne’s life in an often moving narrative, informing it with sensitivity and frequently insightful analysis.”
Washington Post Book World

“A wrenching reading experience, valuable in terms of explication.”
Los Angeles Times

“Vivienne’s fall, so sad and paintful to her family and friends, is now at least somewhat redeemed in a plainly written, clearheaded, wise book.”
—Robert Coles, New York Times Book Review 

Vivienne represents an unusual collaboration between a psychoanalyst, a teacher, and the immediate family of a 14-year-old girl who killed herself by hanging. Although Vivienne was never in psychiatric treatment — a tragic omission — her gifts as a writer and poet, the candor of her family, and the combined clinical, educational, and literary talents of the coauthors have provided us with an extraordinary account of adolescent suicide. This book can be viewed as a monument to Vivienne, a gift to teen-agers and their families, and a challenge to the professionals who study and care for adolescents.”
—Albert J. Solnit, M.D.
Yale University School of Medicine

“A beautiful book – strong and stirring and unsentimental…. Holly Hickler and John Mack have done a fine job of translating this tragedy into an understandable and healing work of art.”
—Jonathan Kozol

“There is no doubt that teenage suicide has become one of the most critical and terrifying issues of this century. In Vivienne, John E. Mack and Holly Hickler may well have produced the landmark book, and one that comes, thankfully, at a crucial time. With extraordinary skill and taste, Mack and Hickler present the life of a very special child, whose own voice and writings come to us with a plaintiveness and urgency and wisdom…. This entire volume, and the life-and-death-matter it reveals, demands our most abiding and assiduous attention.”
—Thomas J. Cottle,
Dept. of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School