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Philippe Brenot

Genius and Madness

Philippe Brenot is a psychiatrist, sexologist and anthropologist and the author of Le Sexe et l’Amour, Inventer le couple and La Violence ordinaire des hommes, all published by Editions Odile Jacob.

Joan of Arc and Rimbaud had hallucinations; Goethe and Balzac suffered from manic-depression; Gauguin and Van Gogh were suicidal: many artists and other creative people have been simultaneously inhabited by genius and madness. Creative exaltation often borders on melancholy, depression and manias, as has been amply shown in many artists’ biographies and autobiographies.
Philippe Brenot examines some of these extraordinary lives in which creative elation encounters dejection and even delirium. But do the highest forms of creativity necessarily contain the risk of madness? Do we admire genius in spite of its element of madness — or because it is based on madness? Isn’t the creative artist the person who dares to push to the outer limits of sanity and is willing to pay the price?

• By studying a number of artists who have made major aesthetic breakthroughs in literature, painting and music, Brenot examines the nature of genius, how it functions and its limits.
• A powerful insight into the workings of the mind.