Louis Althusser and Hélène Rytmann  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

On November 16, 1980, Louis Althusser strangled his wife, Hélène Legotien née Rytmann, to death, following a period of alleged mental instability. The exact circumstances are debated, with some claiming it was deliberate, others accidental. Althusser himself claimed not to have a clear memory of the event, saying that, while he was massaging his wife's neck, he discovered he had strangled her. Since he was alone with his wife when she died, it is difficult to come to firm conclusions. Althusser was diagnosed as suffering from diminished responsibility, and he was not tried, but instead committed to the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital. Althusser remained in hospital until 1983. Upon release, he moved to Northern Paris and lived reclusively, seeing few people. He continued to work and write, but published little. A notable exception is his autobiography, The Future Lasts Forever. He died of a heart attack on October 22, 1990 at the age of 72. Much of his post-1980 work has been published posthumously.




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