Borel, Adrien Alphonse Alcide (1886-1966)

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Adrien Borel, a French psychiatrist, was born March 19, 1886, at 80 rue Bonaparte in Paris, and died September 19, 1966, in Beaumont-lès-Valence. The only son of a doctor from the Ardèche in southern France, Borel studied in Privas and Lyon. He joined the army for three years but gave up his commission after a year. After moving to Paris to study medicine, he became an intern in 1908 and a doctor of medicine in 1913. An auxiliary surgeon during the First World War, he was seriously wounded by a piece of shrapnel on March 1, 1915. After a brief stay in Aisnay-Le-Château, he settled in Paris.

Part of the staff of L'Évolution psychiatrique, created in 1925, he was a committed member of the Annales Médico-Psychologiques, to which he was accepted in 1923 and made a full member in 1931. It was here that he met Professor Briand, Georges Heuyer, Gilbert Robin, and others. A participant in Henri Claude's working group at Sainte-Anne's Hospital, he was one of the twelve founding members of the Société Psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Society), founded in 1926, and its president from 1932 to 1934. He participated in several meetings but made few references to psychoanalysis and none at all after the 1940s. He did not join the small group of analysts that came together in Paris during the Occupation.

He had a lengthy and important affair (until 1940) with Annette Berman, the secretary of Princess Marie Bonaparte, and it was she who became his principal point of contact with the world of psychoanalysis. Borel himself never underwent analysis and after a few sessions with several patients, including the writers Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris, who publicized his name as a therapist, he quickly abandoned analytic practice.

In 1940 he married Blanche, one of his former patients, a woman whose identity always remained ambiguous among his colleagues and friends. He never introduced her as his wife in the world he frequented and never involved her in his professional affairs.

His first research effort, his medical thesis (1913), was devoted to organic and neurological theory. He investigated several of the methods available at the time, except the psychoanalytic method, to alleviate mental suffering, which was his major concern. His last article was about lobotomy (L 'Évolution psychiatrique, 4, 1949). He worked in several hospitals (Sainte-Anne, Bichat) and in a number of private psychiatric clinics, where he met "aesthetes," drug addicts, and individuals for whom public hospitals were out of the question.

Interested in artists and writers, painters, and "creative" individuals in general, Borel participated with René Allendy in the Groupement d'Études Philosophiques et Scientifiques pour l'Examen des Tendances Nouvelles (Philosophic and Scientific Study Group for the Examination of New Trends) in 1922. He wrote a great deal, but much of his writing was destroyed. He published no more than a handful of pages in his own name, generally co-signing his work with other authors, primarily Claude. He wrote one work jointly with Robin, Les Rêveurs éveillés (Éditions Gallimard, collection "Bleue," 1925).

An extremely gentle man, according to Bataille, cordial and corpulent, Borel's energy often resulted in a loss of temper and disagreements with others. Protective, good-natured, and paternal, he had many points in common with the character of the Curé de Torcy, a role he played at the age of sixty-four in Robert Bresson's film Diary of a Country Priest. He died September 19, 1966, of a cerebral hemorrhage at his summer home in Beaumont-lès-Valence.

Nadine MespoulhÈs

See also: Berman, Anne; Claude, Henri Charles Jules; Congrès des psychanalystes de langue française des pays romans; France; Société Psychanalytique de Paris and Institut de psychanalyse de Paris; Surrealism and psychoanalysis.


Borel, Adrien. (1934). La pensée magique dans l'art. Revue française de psychanalyse, 7, 1, 66-83.

. (1934). L'expression de l'ineffable dans lesétats psychopathiques. L'Évolution psychiatrique, 3, 35-53.

. (1935). Les convulsionnaires et le diacre Pâris. L'Évolution psychiatrique, 4, 3-24.

. (1940). La folie de Hitler est-elle celle de l'Allemagne? Les Nouvelles littéraires, 6,1.