Obituary: Louis Zinkin
Monday 22 March 1993
TO CHARACTERISE Louis Zinkin's death as premature is almost banal: he was still energetically moving towards an ever wider and deeper maturity in his thinking and working as an analytical psychologist.
Intellectually and psychologically Zinkin advanced not in a restless way but in a searching one. The themes of moving and seeking show themselves in his intellectual Jewish ancestry - his grandfather, Jacob Zinkin, an eminent Jewish scholar, left the illiberal and anti-Semitic Russia of the late 19th century to settle with gratitude in England. Louis Zinkin inherited his powerful mind from his father and his love of music from his mother. Those two sides of him appeared more often as an effective combination than a source of conflict.
Zinkin did not do particularly well, on the arts side, at the City of London School, but he was thoughtful. At Lincoln College, Oxford, he combined beginning to study medicine with discovering the works of Jung, who already appealed to him as being both a doctor and deeply read in philosophy and other cultural specialisms. He qualified in London, and soon after went as a ship's surgeon to the Far East. Then he worked in a wide variety of hospital settings with adults and later with children, in psychiatry. In the 1950s he was sharpening his all-round understanding of illness.
During his years at Napsbury Hospital, London Colney, he trained as an analytical psychologist. Between 1978 and 1988 he was a consultant psychotherapist and honorary senior lecturer at St George's Hospital, central London, while building up his analytical practice. It was during that time that he took the brave plunge, through being a patient in an analytic group, to qualify as a group analyst. He became a much-valued training analyst in both the Society of Analytical Psychology and the Institute of Group Analysis. In committee meetings he never shirked disagreements, and in seminars he challenged preconceptions most constructively; students valued that. For the last 10 years he and his wife, Hindle, who is a psychotherapist, worked together with marital couples, thus combining group and individual approaches to disturbed relationships.
Zinkin's wide-ranging capacities and interests are beautifully demonstrated in his professional papers. Although to non-analysts they might sound as though they were written only for the cognoscenti, they are in fact an excellent example of how really good-quality analysts are much more than that. I can only select some of the most stimulating: 'Person to Person, the Search for the Human Dimension in Psychotherapy' (1978); 'Is there still a Place for the Medical Model?' (1983); 'The Hologram as a Model for Analytical Psychology' (1987); and 'A Gnostic View of the Therapy Group' (1989).
Zinkin took time to read and reflect on many other people's work. His 1977 paper on the characters in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, particularly the elderly and sad Aschenbach and the charming boy Tadzio, is outstanding. His later papers show a fruitful mixture of Jungian and group analytic ideas and theories. Just before his sudden death he had completed the manuscript of a book, The Psyche and the Social World, which he had edited (and contributed chapters to) with a colleague, Dennis Brown.
Louis Zinkin was a music lover and a talented pianist. He delighted particularly in Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. He only started to learn to play the piano in mid-life, and at the age of 52 he was proud to pass Grade VIII with merit. His playing kept on improving. He suffered serious eye trouble which began in 1980-81, but he determined to master the fear of losing his sight. It was characteristic of him not to be defeated by the difficulty of reading music. What he owed to the constant help given him by Hindle cannot be overestimated. Their partnership paralleled his inner complementary talents in music, medicine and analytical psychotherapy.
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