Antipodean Amities

Looking for something else in the library stacks, I came across Edouard Claparède – Hélène Antipoff, Correspondance 1914-1940 (ed. Martine Ruchat; Florence: Olschki, 2010). Claparède was a well-known psychologist in his day, founder of the Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau (a pedagogy research center in Geneva) and author of some studies of synaesthesia that everybody interested in sense perception should read. His family was connected with the Saussures and other august Genevan folk; the very last thing Ferdinand de Saussure ever wrote was a card regretting that he couldn’t attend a reception at the house of Claparède’s brother René.

Hélène Antipoff, the daughter of a Russian general, came to Geneva to study child psychology in 1912. After the revolution of 1917 her family was more or less destitute. She went back and taught in Petrograd until 1924, then was named Claparède’s assistant in Geneva; married a Spanish count, but dropped him after a few years and returned to Geneva; continued to have visa problems and finally emigrated with her son to Brazil in 1929. There she founded a pedagogical institute that still exists, at Belo Horizonte.

Adventurous people, Claparède from an extremely secure position in life, “Antip” from an extremely insecure one, they kept up an admirably vivid and affectionate correspondence, “professional” only in all but the boring senses of the word.