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Mostly about The Readers Version,
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This review is from: The Red Book: A Reader's Edition (Philemon) (Imitation Leather)
Many of the reviews of this volume appear to have been lifted from the full version of Jung's Red Book, which was published a couple of years ago. My own review concerns mainly the Reader's Edition mentioned above. However, I borrowed the earlier publication from my local library, so will make comparisons that are hopefully helpful for people deciding which to buy, or both.
The Red Book by Jung, Carl Gustav(Author)Hardcover is a beautifully produced facsimile of writings, drawings and journals that Jung transcribed from his dreams and fantasies at a time described as his "confrontation with the unconscious" in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Flamingo). These are all beautifully presented and have the look of a Medieval book transcribed by monks, printed on quality paper. There are also introductions, translations and notes on the text by the editors.
Yet, for all the beauty and care putting this book out, it probably always will be a specialist's book. Firstly because of the price- though sales suggest this has been less of a problem for Jung enthusiasts. The other main problem is one of practicality. The volume is slightly larger than A3 size and possibly 2 inches/ 5 centimeters (approx) thick which makes it cumbersome and physically difficult to read, apart from on a large lectern or table. It also makes cross-reading the pages containing translations, and looking at notes and the introduction difficult. After borrowing it, I decided not to buy this edition for that reason , though remained fascinated,.
The arrival of this Readers Edition changes matters. It has been designed for those who mainly want to engage with the text, or who want something more portable to be used in conjunction with the larger volume. The text is transcribed to a normal hardback size and cross-referenced to illustrations in the larger volume, and is in a red cover reminiscent of some editions of the Bible. As with the larger volume, the production can be barely faulted. The paper is high quality. There are the introductions by editors and translators from the larger book about how the Red Book was produced, its publication history, as well as Jung's own text. My one disappointment is that there are no colour plates (none at all!) of Jung's illustrations, though there are some copies of pencil drawings.
To fully engage with The Red Book probably does require the full illustrations in the larger volume. Yet, that said, the text is fascinating in its own right, and will still give much, because it contains Jung's record of his engagement with various characters who appeared in his imagination. As the introduction suggests, these partly reflect Biblical influences as well as Goethe and Nietzsche. Many of the writings have a poetic and aphoristic flavour with meditations on, for example, the nature of mind, good and evil. They also have a tone reminiscent of William Blake's Prophetic books, or more contemporary poetic texts like Rilke's "Duino Elegies," which was composed at around the same time. This book can be read in the same vein.
In the end, what one makes of the content will largely depend upon one's view of Jung. For those who see him as a madman and crank, it may suggest insanity. Those who see him as a visionary will take much of this as as spiritual insight, and may read it as a prophetic work. One of the psychological fascinations of this text, for me, is when Jung deals directly with his material. In this we can see origins of many ideas that were to resurface later in his writings.
Interestingly, Jung himself regarded the book as a journal of a psychological experiment with his unconscious. He was also seeing patients and discussing some of the things which came up with his colleagues and friends. This, to me, suggests that this much more than a diary of psychotic material. But as Sony Shamdasani suggests, the one certainty is that in the long-term term the publication of this work will revolutionize scholars' views of Jung, not least because it provides first-hand material of what was happening in his mind.
At times the book is a heavy read. It is heady material. But for those sufficiently interested, it will yield much of interest and value. A fascinating book for those with a deep interest in Jung and his work.