Famed Journalist and Essayist Janet Malcolm Dies of Cancer at Age 86

Janet Malcolm wrote frequently about psychoanalysis and published essays criticizing the relationship between journalists and their interview subjects

janet malcom
Janet Malcolm. Photo: George Nikitin/AP/Shutterstock

Janet Malcolm, an essayist and journalist known for her work in The New Yorker, has died. She was 86.

The writer died on June 16 in a hospital in New York City as a result of cancer, her daughter Anne confirmed to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Malcolm was revered for her examination of psychoanalysis in essays and critique of her own profession as a journalist.

The journalist was known for her "razor-sharp acuity" and "self-questioning about all acts of definitive judgment," New Yorker editor David Remnick thoughtfully stated on the publication's website.

Malcolm, who was born in Prague and emigrated to the U.S. in 1939 fleeing World War II, began writing at The New Yorker in the sixties alongside her husband and fellow writer at the publication, Donald Malcolm, who died in 1975.

She went on to marry New Yorker editor Gardner Botsford, who died in 2004.

In her early career, Malcolm wrote in the shopping, design and photography columns before going on to tackle other interests.

The University of Michigan alumni then moved on to write more exploratory essays about psychoanalysis after being inspired by her father, who was a neurologist and psychiatrist. The writer also wrote about the relationship between journalists and their subjects.

janet malcom
Janet Malcolm. George Nikitin/AP/Shutterstock

Her first major work, released in 1981, was Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession. That debut was followed by favorites such as 1984's In the Freud Archives; The Journalist and the Murderer, which was published in 1990; The Silent Woman, which was published in 1994 about poet Sylvia Plath and her estranged husband Ted Hughes; Two Lives, published in 2007 about a couple that survived in Nazi-occupied France; and Iphigenia in Forest Hills, which was published in 2011 about a murder trial in Queens.

Malcolm also wrote an unpublished autobiography, according to The Washington Post.

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The journalist's work was also met with controversy. Malcolm was sued by psychoanalyst Jeffrey Masson, whom she interviewed for In the Freud Archives, for libel. In the body of work, she wrote that Masson described Sigmund Freud's home as "a center of scholarship" and "a place of sex, women, fun." She also wrote that he described himself as an "intellectual gigolo." After an initial trial, the U.S. Supreme Court took on the case for a second trial, ultimately ruling in Malcolm's favor in 1994, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Malcolm is survived by her daughter Anne, her sister Marie Winn and a granddaughter.

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