Book: Un enfant à l’asile, by Anatole Le Bras

In March 1896, Paul Taesch, 22 years old, wrote his autobiography during his stay at the Quimper lunatic asylum (Brittany). Found in his patient file, this exceptional document was the starting point of a long research in the archives, in the footsteps of the young patient. This book presents itself as a polyphonic biography of Paul Taesch, made of his memoirs, a corpus of medical and administrative documents regarding his case, and a commentary by Anatole Le Bras.

Born an orphan in Paris, Paul Taesch was confined when he was only 12 years old in the children’s section of Bicêtre asylum, directed by the famous Dr Bourneville, former collaborator of Charcot. His testimony sheds a new light on the beginnings of child psychiatry in late 19th century Paris. Afterwards, Paul Taesch constantly went in and out of the asylums of Sainte-Anne, Ville-Évrard and Quimper. Rejected by his family, he was unable to survive outside, and was successively diagnosed epileptic, hysteric, idiot, pervert or degenerate…

Through the study of the life of Paul Taesch, this book aims at telling the history of late 19th century psychiatry from the patient’s viewpoint. It is also a contribution to the history of male hysteria, trying to decipher the nature of this enigmatic malady, halfway between simulation and madness, that led Paul Taesch to the asylum. More information can be found here: http://www.cnrseditions.fr/histoire/7643-un-enfant-a-lasile.html

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