Death of the Great Man: A Novel

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In a novel that’s part comic mystery, part political satire, and part case vignette, a psychiatrist reviews his involvement with a narcissistic national leader who has turned up dead on the consulting room couch.

When the country’s leader—an egotistical autocrat known as the Great Man—turns up dead on psychiatrist Henry Farber’s couch, the doctor goes on the run. To clear his name, he begins setting down what he remembers about his recruitment, the intrigues of the regime, and the aims of psychotherapy in the treatment of a despot. Soon Henry is plagued by doubt: How helpful were his methods? What is he free to disclose? Meanwhile, the Great Man’s wife and his chief advisor have become suspects, along with Henry’s former patients. What begins as comic mystery and political satire matures into a moving journey of self-exploration and, finally, a commentary on the fate of truth-telling in a culture in which lying has become a norm in public life.
When Peter D. Kramer wrote about his work with psychiatric patients in books like Listening to Prozac and Should You Leave?, Joyce Carol Oates called him “an analyst of exceptional sensitivity and insight,” and said,“To read his prose on virtually any subject is to be provoked, enthralled, illuminated.”When Kramer switched to fiction, Publishers Weekly wrote, “The depth, quality, and ambition of Kramer’s prose will surprise those expecting a superficial crossover effort.”
In his new novel, Death of the Great Man, Kramer uses these literary skills to address one of contemporary psychiatry’s confounding questions: What can we know and say about the makeup of a populist national leader who appears narcissistic, buffoonish, and perhaps a trifle paranoid?