Hesnard, Angélo Louis Marie (1886-1969)

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A psychoanalyst, doctor with the French Navy, and professor at theÉcole Principale du Service de Santé de la Marine, Angélo Louis Marie Hesnard was born in Pontivy in the Morbihan, on May 22, 1886, and died in Rochefort-sur-Mer on April 17, 1969. He was coauthor of the first French work on psychoanalysis and one of the founding members of the Société Psychanalytique de Paris (SPP). He was the son of Angélo Théodose Hesnard and Lélia Célénis Rosalie Blancon, from a family of judges. His brother Oswald, who had a degree in German, helped him understand Freud's writings.

After completing his studies in Pontivy, he entered theÉcole de Santé de la Marine et des Colonies in Bordeaux on October 20, 1905. A student of Albert Pitres, then of Emmanuel Régis, he wrote his dissertation in 1909 on "Les troubles de la personnalité dans lesétats d'asthénie psychique," in which there is a reference to Freud. He continued his military career in Toulon, then, from 1910 to 1912, on the armored cruiser Amiral Charner in the Middle East.

Upon his return in 1912 he was appointed assistant at the Clinique des Maladies Mentales at the University of Bordeaux, where he rejoined Emmanuel Régis, who encouraged Hesnard to study Freud. On January 2, Freud wrote to Karl Abraham, "Today I received a letter from a student of Régis, in Bordeaux, written on his behalf, apologizing in the name of French psychiatry for its present neglect of Ya." According to a letter to Ernest Jones on January 14, the reference is to the "apologies from the French nation" that Freud received. This was followed in 1913 by the publication of "La doctrine de Freud et de sonécole" by Emmanuel Régis and Angélo Hesnard in L'Encéphale.

La Psychanalyse des névroses et des psychoses appeared in 1914. It was a lengthy précisand as faithful as it was possible to be at the timeof Freud's principal theories, as Sándor Ferenczi noted in the review of the book he wrote in 1915. This was followed by an examination of the criticisms the theories had received from various authors, and finally by several commentaries, of which Hesnard claimed, after Régis' death, that heRégiswas the principal author.

They recognized that "Freud's system seems to constitute, regardless of what one may say, one of the most important scientific movements of the current psychological period." Nonetheless, their remarks essentially referred to what appeared to them to be no more than "ingenious assumptions" that were both original and well understood, sinceand this is an argument that would be repeated for decades to come"Freud's method of conception is based on that of Janet, whom he has constantly been inspired by. Transforming the term 'psychological analysis,' employed by Janet, into psychoanalysis has changed nothing in the method used by both students of Charcot." The causal importance given to sexuality or symbolism was also criticized. While Freud, in his "On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement" (1914d), concluded that "Régis and Hesnard (Bordeaux) have recently [1914] attempted to disperse the prejudices of their countrymen against the new ideas by an exhaustive presentation, which, however, is not always understanding and takes special exception to symbolism," he reproached Hesnard for years for this type of finding. In France the work remained the only extensive essay on psychoanalysis for nearly twenty years and was reprinted in 1922 and 1929.

Hesnard spent the war years in Rochefort and on September 16, 1915, married Henriette Aline Vimont. He was supposed to return to Bizerte, Tunisia, in 1917. When he returned to Paris in 1919, he was named professor at theÉcole Principale du Service de Santé de la Marine and assistant in neuropsychiatry at the Bordeaux school of medicine. His interest in psychoanalysis did not wane, nor did his reticence, and he was appointed rapporteur to the Congrès des aliénistes et neurologistes de langue française de Besançon (Congress of francophone psychiatrists and neurologists of Besançon) in August 1923. The subject was "La Psychanalyse: Valeurétiologique, méthodologique, thérapeutique et psychiatrique de la doctrine." In his conclusion Hesnard wrote, "It is in this way that psychoanalysis, freed of its terminological errors, its theoretical exaggerations, and its symbolic fictions of semiological research, joins psychiatry, from which it depends, and clinical psychology. . . . It is in this way that this still unwieldy, but highly perfectible, body of doctrine and method, has an incontestable right to our sympathy as scientists and French nationals."

While on a trip to Toulon he established contacts with young psychiatrists, who, back in Paris, began to practice psychoanalysis. René Laforgue was the first. It was with Laforgue that Hesnard founded, in 1925, the group and the review of the same name, L'Évolution psychiatrique, before his departure in June to the Far East. He returned in November 1925, and in August 1926 was present at the Congrès des Aliénistes in Geneva and participated in the first Conférence des Psychanalystes de Langue Française (Conference of francophone psychoanalysts) that was created at that time.

Although he refused to undergo a teaching analysis (a position he maintained until the end of his life), in November 1926 he became one of the founders of the Société Psychanalytique de Paris, of which he was vice president in 1928 and president in 1930, and in 1927 helped found the Revue française de psychanalyse, where he was responsible for the "medical section." He was also a member of the Commission Linguistique pour l'Unification du Vocabulaire Psychanalytique Française (Linguistic commission for the unification of French psychoanalytic vocabulary), where he fought for the harmonization of French psychoanalytic terminology.

Although supported by Laforgue, he was often criticized by Freud. In 1922, in a preface to the second edition of his first important work, he wrote, "Freud's doctrine, the product not of the French character of Charcot, as has been claimed, but rather of Germanic philosophy, has had no more useful adversary in the search for truth than Restraint, the muse of Latinity." Over the years, Hesnard's position would soften and, in 1926, he dedicated his book, La Vie et la Mort des instincts, to Freud: "To Professor S. Freud, I offer, along with the disavowal of my unfair criticisms, the homage of my pure admiration." When the book was reprinted for the third time in 1929, he noted that he had spent "ten years in understanding psychoanalysis theoretically and five years in acquiring sufficient practical knowledge," and he softened his initial criticisms.

Nonetheless, Hesnard remained part of a small group of psychiatrists who opposed the more cultural approach to psychoanalysis represented by Marie Bonaparte. They especially rejected the authority of the International Psychoanalytic Association, and even of Freud himselfa division that would nearly lead to a split among their ranks in the late nineteen thirties. On January 23, 1932, Hesnard wrote to Bernard Grasset, whom he was trying, in vain, to treat, "I beg you, forget all that flashiness, the grandiloquence, all those 'Oedipuses.' You, as a subtle and marvelously intuitive Gaul, should not let yourself be misled further by those Judeo-Germanic specters of enchantment" (Bothorel, J., 1989).

He was secretary of the Conseil Supérieur de la Marine in Paris in 1938 and was named head of the Service de Santé de la Marine in Algeria and director of the Service de Santé de la Quatrième Région Maritime in 1940, inspector general of the Service de Santé de la Marine in Africa in 1943, and spent the Second World War in Bizerte. In 1942-1943 he wrote an article entitled, "Sur l'israélisme de Freud," published in 1946, which claimed to be a refutation of the apparent or claimed Jewish influence in Freud's writings. Nonetheless,Élisabeth Roudinesco maintained that the article was anti-Semitic in spite of Hesnard's apparent pro-Jewish sentiments (1982). Calumnied and disgraced after the Liberation, from September 1944 to June 1945, he lived with his wife and daughter in Casablanca, where he joined the Socialist Party and gave several talks before returning to Toulon.

Hesnard participated indirectly in the renewal of the SPP and was also one of the members of the honor committee of the group and the review Psyché, founded by Maryse Choisy in 1946, which brought together, aside from René Laforgue, religious and academic scholars and Jungian psychologists who had not been admitted to the SPP. He participated in writing the Dictionnaire de psychanalyse et de psychotechnique, which was being prepared in 1949, under the direction of Maryse Choisy and later Daniel Lagache.

At this time Hesnard moved into the "Port-Hesnard" villa in the Mourillon quarter of Toulon, where he practiced psychoanalytic therapy. He was criticized for his lack of rigor in his work, a reproach that was used against him during the negotiations intended to reintegrate the Société Française de Psychanalyse (SFP) into the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) because he had sided with Jacques Lacan during the June 1953 split. In June 1957 he was dismissed from the SPP for "non-payment of dues and failure to participate in society activities."

Although he was elected president of the SFP in 1959, one of the "recommendations" of the IPA committee, made during the Edinburgh congress of 1961, stipulated "that the current practice of keeping Doctors Hesnard and Laforgue out of the training program be maintained. With respect to Doctor Hesnard's students, these can participate in regular analytic training or they will not be admitted as students of the society." Hesnard again sided with Lacan in 1964 during the foundation of theÉcole freudienne de Paris (Freudian school of Paris) and, in 1968, became a member of its "accreditation committee."

In 1964, for family reasons, he left Toulon to settle in Nantes, near where he was born, and where he died on April 17, 1969.

There have been references to the "tall, somewhat Olympian silhouette, the luminous eyes and expressiveness" (Picard, 1972) of this complex character, sometimes sarcastically referred to as "the admiral," whose extensive body of work has had little impact on theory. Following a number of articles written before the war that fall halfway between proselytism and criticism, the bulk of his output was didactic or historical in nature. These include: Freud dans la société d'aprèsguerre (1946), L'Univers morbide de la faute (1949), Morale sans péché (1954), Psychanalyse du lien interhumain (1957), L'OEuvre de Freud et son importance pour le monde moderne (1960), Les Phobies et la Névrose phobique (1961), Psychologie du crime (1963).

Alain de Mijolla

Work discussed: Psychanalyse des névroses et des psychoses, La.

See also: Aimée, case of; Congrès des psychanalystes de langue française des pays romans; Disque vert, Le ; Ethics; Évolution psychiatrique (l' -) (Developments in Psychiatry); France; Object; Psyché, revue internationale de psychanalyse et des sciences de l' homme (Psyche, an international review of psychoanalysis and human sciences); Régis, Emmanuel Jean-Baptiste Joseph; Revue française de psychanalyse ; Société française de psychanalyse; Société psychanalytique de Paris and Institut de psychanalyse de Paris.


Bothorel, Jean. (1989). Bernard Grasset: vie et passion d'un éditeur. Paris : Grasset.

Hesnard, Angélo. (1960). L'Œuvre de Freud et son importance pour le monde moderne. Preface by M. Merleau-Ponty, Paris: Payot.

Hesnard-Félix,Édith. (1984). Le Dr Hesnard et la naissance de la psychanalyse en France. Ph.D. thesis in philosophy, Paris-I.

Picard, Pierre Alexandre. (1972). Hesnard et le début de la psychanalyse en France. Psychologie médicale, IV, 1, p. 73-85.

Régis, Emmanuel and Hesnard, Angélo. (1913). La doctrine de Freud et de sonécole (1re partie). L'Encéphale, VIII, 10 April 1913, p. 356-378.

. (1914) La psychoanalyse des névroses et des psychoses. Ses applications médicales et extra-médicales. Paris: Félix Alcan.

Roudinesco,Élisabeth. (1982). La bataille de cent ans. Histoire de la psychanalyse en France (Vol. 1). Paris: Ramsay.