Memoirs of My Nervous Illness
by Daniel Paul Schreber, introduction by Rosemary Dinnage
In 1884, the distinguished German jurist Daniel Paul Schreber suffered the first of a series of mental collapses that would afflict him for the rest of his life. In his madness, the world was revealed to him as an enormous architecture of nerves, dominated by a predatory God. It became clear to Schreber that his personal crisis was implicated in what he called a “crisis in God’s realm,” one that had transformed the rest of humanity into a race of fantasms. There was only one remedy; as his doctor noted: Schreber “considered himself chosen to redeem the world, and to restore to it the lost state of Blessedness. This, however, he could only do by first being transformed from a man into a woman….”
The wonderful Schreber...ought to have been made a professor of psychiatry and director of a mental hospital.
— Sigmund Freud
[Memoirs of My Nervous Illness examines] what happens when the human mind works in ways that are mysterious even to its owner.
— New Yorker
Schreber is appealing because his writing is loose and vague, full of sex and politics—a kind of information pornography. It fulfills the pleasures of his readers whatever their ideological persuasion.
— Giovanni Intra, Bookforum
Since...[its publication in 1903] it's been widely regarded as the most revelatory subjective account of mental illness ever put forward...This edition, the first for decades, represents a very welcome return to print....To call this epiphanic confession a cross between Hildegard of Bingen and Philip K Dick may demarcate its territory, but it gives little idea of the universe of detail and the evangelical white heat of its sustained visionary narrative. Schreber was undoubtedly barking mad, as we're reminded by the dry psychiatric reports on his progress, which are included in this volume. But we're also reminded throughout that barking madness can coexist with a razor-sharp legal mind, astonishing personal courage and a boundless love for humanity.
— Mike Jay, Fortean Times, The Journal of Strange Phenomena