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Out of mind

Those seeking to explain the actions of Josef Fritzl have resorted to stock ideas—that he is insane, evil or a product of his culture. Yet for all his depravity, he remains one of us

To the annals of human depravity we have now added Josef Fritzl: the man who gave concrete shape to the incestuous unconscious. He fathered seven children in his own image through the quasi-mythical act of raping his daughter. One died in infancy; three joined the upper world of bourgeois Amstetten; the other three were consigned to the cellar below. For 24 years in this self-created underworld, Fritzl enjoyed the power of Hades. “The cellar of my house belonged to me alone,” he told his lawyer. “It was my kingdom, to which only I had access.”

As media commentators have sought…

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