George Hyde

George Hyde is a lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at the University of East Anglia.

Diary: Story of a Mental Breakdown

George Hyde, 29 September 1988

In the summer of 1985, I flipped my lid: went mad, had a breakdown, or embarked upon a depressive illness, whatever your preferred terminology is. Depression, though a euphemism, is probably the best available description of what the condition looks and feels like to the person going through it, and to others. Madness is fascinating to read about in literature, where it seems to provide a royal road through tragic downfall to moral salvation. But this is, of course, the world of art, where everything works out in the end, for better or worse, and everything fits together. Life, need we say, is not like that, since it just keeps on going on until one day it stops, generally of its own accord: and for this reason, among others, madness (or depressive illness) in reality, as opposed to literature, is boring as well as upsetting, and seems to lead nowhere and prove nothing. There are many consoling clichés abroad about breakdown: one is that it is ‘like breaking your leg’. Another is that it can make you a better person. Neither of these statements is true. Anyone who tries to tell me them again will end up severely mutilated.

Reports from Albania tend to be sneering and/or adorned with grainy photographs of poverty. The Albanian people, who have had a lot to put up with, are now facing new kinds of exploitation. At least Matt Frei (LRB, 14 May) noticed the spectacular and unspoilt coastline’ (long may it remain so!). Maybe next time he’ll visit (for instance) Tirana University, with its well-equipped new British Resource...

Their Witness

27 February 1992

At a recent reunion of writers associated with Essex University, Natan Zach paid tribute to Donald Davie’s dignified conduct during the political upheavals of the Sixties. Deeply out of sympathy with events he could make no sense of, Davie turned away to, among other things, a postgraduate programme in literary translation, his brainchild, from which he sought an image of his own urbane Europeanism....

Moving house

29 September 1988

Dr Holmes’s letter (Letters, 27 October) was helpful, and pretty accurate, I think. I would just like to append a few observations. Freud is on record as saying that the most difficult patients were the ‘so-called intellectuals’, because with them ‘the right hand never knew what the left hand was doing.’ Maybe; no one, at all events, should be called upon/allowed to make any important, and...

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