Choisy, Maryse (1903-1979)

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CHOISY, MARYSE (1903-1979)

Journalist, writer, and founder of the review Psyché, Maryse Choisy was born in Saint-Jean-de-Luz on February 1, 1903, and died in Paris on March 21, 1979. She was an officer of the National Order of Merit, and was awarded a silver medal of Arts, Lettres, et Sciences, and the Lamennais Prize (1967).

She was raised in an old château in the Basque country by wealthy aunts. At the end of the First World War, she continued her studies in Cambridge, then entered Girton College and prepared her dissertation on Samkhya philosophy; she also studied yoga.

When she was twenty-fourthe year was 1927she had her first contact with psychoanalysis when she sought treatment with Sigmund Freud. At their third meeting she related an anxiety dream that Freud responded to by stating, "You are an illegitimate child." Incredulous, she nevertheless followed his advice by asking her aunt about her birth. Her illegitimacy was confirmed. That was all she learned of her birth, but she never returned to Berggasse Street. It was another twenty years before she again had any involvement with psychoanalysis.

Through her career as a journalist and writer, she became an active participant in the intellectual life of the 1930s. She wrote some thirty books: novels, poems, essays, and personal journalism (she became a journalist with L 'Intransigent in 1925), which brought her fame. Between 1927 and 1931 there appeared Un mois chez les hommes (A month among men; on the monks of Mount Athos), Un mois chez les filles (A month among girls; on prostitution), which caused a scandal upon its publication, L 'Amour dans les prisons (Love in the Prisons), and Un mois chez les députés (A month among parliamentarians).

She criticized the Surrealist Manifesto, which she felt was based on a false understanding of Freud's concept of the unconscious, and, in Nouvelles littéraires, published her "Manifeste surridéaliste," in 1927. She married the journalist Maxime Clouzet. In 1932 their daughter Colette was born. There followed Neuf mois, (Nine months), Savoir être maman (How to be a mama), and two books of children's stories.

In 1927 her first novel appeared, entitled C6 H8 (Az03)6 Mon coeur dans une formule (My heart in a formula). She felt she was expressing the aspirations of the younger generation of the time, breaking the habits of a "generation of pen pushers," "a generation that was horizontal from five to seven," she described, "in the twenties, we are a vertical brood." In 1929, following a mystical crisis, she dabbled in various forms of spiritualism until her meeting with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1938, a turning point in her spiritual quest. She converted and, after the Liberation, devoted her efforts to bringing together science, religion, and psychoanalysis. She used psychoanalysis to satisfy her religious ideals, both those of Catholicism and those of a "meditative" and "orientalist" ecumenicalism, through which she affirmed her "adherence to the ideals of the Roman Catholic church."

The review Psyché, founded in 1946, reflects these concerns. Together with Father Leycester King of Oxford, she founded the Association Internationale de Psychothérapie et de Psychologie Catholique (International association of Catholic psychotherapy and psychology).

She resumed her analysis, this time with René Laforgue. She felt she was a victim of Freud's "savage" analysis, comparing herself to Dora, but she did not question his genius, which reminded her of Einstein. The fact that Laforgue was a dissident and had dropped out of the International Psychoanalytic Association encouraged Choisy to begin a second, training analysis with Maurice Bouvet. She considered this an obligation but acknowledged she had made a "solid negative transference."

Un mois chez les filles was about prostitution but Choisy intended to approach it the same way Freud approached neurotics, restoring to them their humanity and avoiding Tolstoy's moralizing or the aestheticism of Pierre Louÿs and Francis Carco. (The book was rediscovered and published in 1961 in the United States as Psychoanalysis of the Prostitute. ) In 1949 Choisy published a study on the "Métapsychologie du scandale" in Psyché, reprinted in her book Le Scandale de l 'amour (The scandal of love). She published four other works popularizing psychoanalysis. Her last book, published in 1978, is volume two of her memoirs, significantly subtitled: Sur le chemin de Dieu on rencontre d 'abord le diable (On the path to God we first meet the devil).

Choisy had an adventurous and provocative intellect that she developed through her many publications, and she occupied an important position in the intellectual world of pre-War Paris. But it was only after the Liberation that she became part of the history of psychoanalysis for two complementary reasons: First, her efforts to obtain official recognition of psychoanalysis by the Catholic church and encourage practitioners and researchers to consider positions that were different and sometimes radically distinct, and second, the creation of the review Psyché, which, more than all her other writing, constitutes her "psychoanalytic oeuvre" and explains her renown in the field.

Jacqueline Cosnier

See also: France; Psyché. Revue internationale de psychanalyse et des sciences de l'homme (Psyche, an international review of psychoanalysis and human sciences).


Choisy, Maryse. (1961). Psychoanalysis of the prostitute. New York: Philosophical Library. (Original work published 1928)

. (1977). Mémoires : sur le chemin de Dieu on rencontre d'abord le Diable. Paris:Émile Paul.

Guillemain, Bernard. (1959). Maryse Choisy ou l'Amoureuse Sagesse. Paris: C.A.M.C. Hachette.