Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Yuri I. Ablonovsky (1885-1949?)

From The Encyclopedia of Imaginary Persons, an unwritten work by Brian A. Oard:

ABLONOVSKY, YURI I. (1885-1949?) Russian psychoanalyst and stage magician. Born into a St. Petersburg merchant family and educated at Cambridge and Vienna, he was a student and (for a brief time) patient of Sigmund Freud (see Freud’s “A Case of Delusional Paranoia Arising from an Anal Fixation Unusually Resistant to Analysis,” S.E. X, 112-134; see also, Oliver Sacks, “The Comrade Who Mistook His Penis For A Turd: Neurological Musings upon a Freudian Failure,” It‘s All In Your Head: Uncollected Writings, 75-89). Ablonovsky earned the lifelong enmity of Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka after receiving manual pleasure from Alma Mahler atop the Prater ferris wheel. (Kokoschka’s portrait of Ablonovsky, praised by Robert Hughes as “a psychological masterpiece: the smoldering, barely animate ruin of a human being, like a Marsyas who after his flaying has been cut down and electrocuted,” currently hangs in the Berezovsky Collection, London.) Returning to Russia in late 1916, he participated in the February Revolution and supported the government of Alexander Kerensky, an affiliation that forced him into exile after the Bolshevik takeover. He practiced psychoanalysis in Berlin and Dresden (1920-33) and Paris (1934-40), concurrently investigating the condition that would come to be known as ‘Ablonovsky’s Syndrome,’ the radical inability to distinguish between waking and dreamed ‘realities.’ To the sufferer, memories of his waking life seem no more ‘real’ (and often less so) than memories of his dreams. Ablonovsky returned again to Russia shortly after the outbreak of World War Two. Abandoning psychoanalysis, he pursued a career as a professional magician, performing in Moscow under the name ‘Yabo the Great.’ His hugely popular performances during and after the war, which usually climaxed with his ‘cutting a fascist into eight pieces and juggling them’ illusion, came to an abrupt end after he reportedly said to a friend, “They call me the greatest magician of all time, but I am no match for Comrade Stalin. He can make even Trotsky disappear.” KGB records released in 1991 show that Ablonovsky died in custody shortly after his 1949 arrest. Multiple witnesses, however, have reported encountering an elderly man claiming to be ‘Yabo the Great’ in various Siberian prison camps as late as 1978.

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