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Musatti, Cesare (1897-1989)

MUSATTI, CESARE (1897-1989)

Cesare Musatti, an Italian psychoanalyst and psychologist, was born in Dolo (Venice) on September 21, 1897, and died in Milan on March 20, 1989. He was a leading figure for the first generation of Italian psychoanalysts.

He spent his childhood and adolescence in Venice, his family's hometown. His mother was an elementary school teacher and his father, a Jewish idealist and revolutionary, was a socialist deputy.

In 1915 he began to study mathematics in the university of Padua before moving on to the faculty of philosophy. He studied under Vittorio Benussi before becoming his assistant. Benussi was conducting research into the use of suggestion and hypnotic techniques. Musatti later took over from him as lecturer and succeeded him as director of the Padua University Institute of Psychology.

In 1934 he established contact with Edoardo Weiss, who was then training a group of students associated with the Rivista italiana di psicoanalisi in Rome. Musatti immediately joined the Società psicoanalitica italiana, which Weiss was actively forming at the time. Although race laws forced him to abandon teaching, an enlightened industrialist, Adriano Olivetti, invited him to Ivrea in 1943 to create a laboratory devoted to industrial psychology, the first of its kind in Italy.

Musatti entered a period of intense activity after the war. His Trattato di psicoanalisi (Treatise on psychoanalysis), published in 1949 and soon nicknamed il freudino (the little Freud) by students, continues to be one of his most famous and most successful books. He collaborated with the publishers of psychoanalytic texts and was a leading protagonist in introducing psychoanalysis into Italian culture.

Musatti's main contribution may be the fact that he directed the translation, along with publishers Boringhieri, of the complete works of Sigmund Freud into Italian. In his preface in 1966 to Michel David's La Psicoanalisi nella cultura italiana (Psychoanalysis in Italian Culture), the same Musatti observed, not without regret, that the small number of analysts and the absence of kindred spirits had prevented him from undertaking any considerable research and forced him to focus essentially on facile vulgarization that was devoid of any real originality.

As a lay analyst, Musatti contributed to propagating and developing psychoanalysis in Italy, finding the means to enable it to enter cultural debatesranging from psychology to art and jurisprudence to literatureand introducing Freudian thought with skill and talent into domains where resistance was great. All of this he accomplished without perhaps realizing the importance of Laienanalyse (lay analysis) for psychoanalysis. As it happened, in the Complete Works published under Musatti's editorship, Freud's essay (1926e) was mistranslated as Analisi dei non medici (Analysis of non-physicians).

A keen observer and frequently ironic, even with himself, he was the author of several books that were also intended for the general public, among them: Curar nevrotici con la propra autoanalisi (Treating neuroses with the appropriate self-analysis; 1987) and Chi ha paura del lupo cattivo? (Who's afraid of the big bad wolf ?; 1987). In his last work, Psicoanalisti e pazienti a teatro, a teatro! (Psychoanalysts and patients to the theatre, to the theatre!; 1988), Musatti concentrated particularly on discovering the links between psychoanalysis and theatre in order to introduce the common ground between these two fields into the "internal theatre" of each human being.

Giancarlo Gramaglia

See also: Italy; Opere (writings of Sigmund Freud) ; Trattato di psicoanalisi .


David, Michel. (1966). La psicoanalisi nella cultura italiana. Torino: Boringhieri.

Freud, Sigmund. (1926e). The question of lay analysis, SE, 20: 177-250.

Musatti, Cesare. (1949). Trattato di psicoanalisi. Torino: Boringhieri-Einaudi.

. (1987). Chi ha paura del lupo cattivo? Rome: Riuniti.

. (1987). Curar nevrotici con la propria autoanalisi. Milan: A. Mondadori.

. (1988). Psicoanalisti e pazienti a teatro, a teatro! Milan: A. Mondadori.

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