Honesty is the best policy, it is said, but when you style yourself an intellectual who writes in earnest, and you are not only a fraud, but also have severe mental health problems, there is an argument for keeping silent. This autobiography, which reminds one of Rousseau's Confessions (albeit without the charm), is perhaps Althusser's finest piece of writing—although less because of its literary qualities or the insights it offers into his contemporaries than because it will completely prevent anyone who reads it from ever taking him seriously again. Althusser documents his troubled relationship with his father; his creepy relationship with his mother; his deep insecurity; his recurrent struggles with depression; his broken marriage (the wife was also disturbed); and his struggles with mental illness, thanks to which he spent much of his adult life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and eventually resulted in his murdering his wife during a psychotic episode. A committed, dues-paying communist, his writing was ideological and primarily concerned with the politics and divisions within the Communist Party. To the horror of his admirers, he openly admits to having been poorly read, an academic fraud, and a coward. His life was grim—grey, miserable, joyless, humourless, and spent in bad company. A very instructive volume, but I was glad when it was over.
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