Léon Chertok

Memoirs of a Heretic: Hypnosis and Resistance Publication date : January 4, 2006

Léon Chertok’s name remains linked to hypnosis. He is known for his life-long battle to develop and help spread the practice of hypnosis in France and on an international scale. But he was also extremely well-versed in the history of psychoanalysis. He writes with great freedom here about both psychoanalysis and hypnosis, examining the causes — historic, personal and scientific — that pitted them against each other.

Chertok, a complex, multi-faceted man, led a varied life, full of surprises and contrasts. Fiercely antagonistic of dogmatism in psychoanalysis, he was nonetheless hailed in Moscow for introducing psychoanalysis to the Soviet Union. Though fully aware of Stalinist ravings against pain-free childbirth and of the nostalgia felt by Central European Jews for the shtetl, the lost archipelago, he was indefatigable in his efforts to build bridges between East and West during the Cold War. Though known for disorderliness and for constantly misplacing his keys and eyeglasses, he spent the war years underground in the Resistance, where the slightest slip-up or oversight could result in death.
Chertok’s memoirs give us a new insight into the life of the “Father of Hypnosis” — a life spent fighting on various fronts.

Léon Chertok was born in Lida, Russia, in 1911. He studied medicine in Czechoslovakia and came to Paris in 1939. After the war, he began training in psychiatry and psychoanalysis. In the following years, his growing interest in psychosomatic disorders led him to develop the much-contested but now generally recognised practice of hypnosis. He died in Paris in 1991.