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Ernest Borneman.

Ernst Wilhelm Julius Bornemann (April 12 1915 – June 4, 1995) was a German crime writer, filmmaker, anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, jazz musician, jazz critic, psychoanalyst, sexologist, and committed socialist. All these diverse interests, he claimed, had a common root in his lifelong insatiable curiosity. From 1982-1986 he was president of the German Society for Social-Scientific Sexuality Research. In 1990 he was awarded the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for sexual science.


Life and work

Born and raised in Berlin—back then "one of the most relaxed, sane, open, cosmopolitan cities in the world"— as the son of "the happiest couple I have ever known", Borneman grew up in relative wealth and says he was "sexually mature at fourteen, politically mature at fifteen, and intellectually mature between fourteen and sixteen". As a pupil he made the acquaintance of Bertolt Brecht and also worked at the counselling centre for workers established by Wilhelm Reich's Socialist Association for Sexual Counselling and Research, an organisation the latter had removed from Vienna to Berlin in 1930.

Another important influence in Borneman's early life was music, especially from overseas. As a ten-year-old, at the world's fair in Paris, France, he had seen musicians from Congo who had fascinated him. He went to concerts in his native Berlin as soon as they would let him in, listening, among others, to Marlene Dietrich, the Weintraub Syncopators and jazz saxophonist Sidney Bechet. A distant relative, the ethnomusicologist Erich von Hornbostel, introduced him to his field of study, and after school Borneman attended Hornbostel's lectures and on weekends helped out in his archive. It was Hornbostel who finally initiated Borneman into the world of jazz.

A member of the Communist Party of Germany, Bornemann was forced to leave the country in 1933, after the Nazis had come to power. He was smuggled out of the country posing as a member of the Hitler Youth on his way to England as an exchange student. On arriving in England, where he sought, and was granted, political asylum, he anglicized his first name to Ernest and, by dropping the second n, his family name to Borneman. At the time he hardly spoke one word of English.

A quick learner, Borneman did not just pick up enough English to be able to survive but also to live by his pen. In 1937, Gollancz published Borneman's "detective story to end detective stories" (Julian Symons), a novel entitled The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, which he had completed before turning twenty. In all, until 1968, Borneman wrote six crime novels, all of them in English.

In London Borneman met the anthropologists and psychoanalysts Géza Róheim through whom he became interested in anthropological problems. Also he took a personal analytic treatment under Roheim

During his London years Borneman was preoccupied with jazz, both theoretically and practically. He went to all concerts of famous musicians touring Britain such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. He played the piano, double bass and drums himself and even went to sea playing in dance bands on transatlantic cruise ships. At home in London, he spent countless hours in the British Museum Reading Room and at other institutions of learning. His notes on the origins and the development of jazz grew steadily, and in 1940 he sent the first version of his study, a 580 page typescript entitled "Swing Music. An Encyclopaedia of Jazz" to Melville J. Herskovits, then the most prominent U.S. anthropologist specializing in African American studies.

In 1940 Borneman was deported to a Canadian war prisoner camp as "enemy alien" and got later released to work for BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)and on misceallaneous film projects amongst others with directors like Orson Welles.

After the war in 1960 Borneman was called back to Germany through German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to build up a state owned TV-Station called Freies Fernsehen Gesellschaft (FFG Free TV Company). However this TV-Station could not go on broadcasting upon a decision of the German federal court. After this breakdown Bornemann began studies on scientific sexology, a theme that interested him from his earlier days with Wilhelm Reich and later Géza Roheim. He received a doctor's degree in 1976 on a comprehensive study about the origin and the future of Patriarchy ("Das Patriarchat"). The study which later was edited as a Book is regarded as perhaps the most important book about this subject. Borneman made a lot further important psychological and analytical studies about sexuality, language and power and later was appointed to a professorship at the University of Salzburg (Austria). In the 1980ies Borneman was regarded as one of the most important and influental scientist in sexology in the German speaking part of the world. The well known "German Society for Social Scientific Sexuality Research"(DGSS "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sozialwissenschaftliche Sexualforschung") honored him in 1990 as first scientist ever with the awarding of the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for Sexual Science.

During the final decades of his life Borneman lived in Scharten, Upper Austria, where he committed suicide at the age of 80 due to a tragic love-affair.


  • The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor (1937)
  • "Swing Music. An Encyclopaedia of Jazz" (unpublished typescript, 580pp., 1940)
  • A Critic Looks at Jazz (1946; collected criticism from his column in the jazz periodical The Record Changer, "An Anthropologist Looks at Jazz"; the only jazz book ever published by Borneman)
  • Tremolo (1948; his third novel, filmed in 1950 by Yul Brynner for CBS)
  • Face the Music (a trumpet player is suspected of murdering a blues singer and finds poison on his mouthpiece; Borneman also wrote the screenplay for the 1954 British movie adaptation of the same title directed by Terence Fisher, aka The Black Glove in the U.S.A.)
  • Bang, You're Dead (screenplay, co-written with Guy Elmes for the 1954 British movie directed by Lance Comfort)
  • Four O'Clock in the Morning Blues (jazz opera for the BBC, with music by Malcolm Rayment, 1954)
  • The Compromisers (novel, 1962)
  • Tomorrow Is Now (novel)
  • The Long Duel (adaptation for the film by Ken Annakin, 1967)
  • The Man Who Loved Women (aka Landscape with Nudes) (1968; his last novel)
  • Lexikon der Liebe und Erotik (1968)
  • Psychoanalyse des Geldes. Eine kritische Untersuchung psychoanalytischer Geldtheorien (1973)
  • Studien zu Befreiung des Kindes, 3 vols. (1973)
  • Der obszöne Wortschatz der Deutschen—Sex im Volksmund (1974)
  • Das Patriarchat. Ursprung und Zukunft unseres Gesellschaftssystems (1975)
  • Die Ur-Szene. Eine Selbstanalyse (autobiographical, 1977)
  • Reifungsphasen der Kindheit. Sexuelle Entwicklungspsychologie (1981)
  • Die Welt der Erwachsenen in den verbotenen Reimen deutschsprachiger Stadtkinder (1982)
  • Rot-weiß-rote Herzen. Das Liebes-, Ehe- und Geschlechtsleben der Alpenrepublik (1984)
  • Das Geschlechtsleben des Kindes. Beiträge zur Kinderanalyse und Sexualpädologie (1985)
  • Die neue Eifersucht. Starke Männer zeigen Schwäche: Sie werden eifersüchtig (1986)
  • Ullstein Enzyklopädie der Sexualität (1990)
  • Sexuelle Marktwirtschaft. Vom Waren- und Geschlechtsverkehr in der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft (1992)
  • Die Zukunft der Liebe (2001) (his last book)

Borneman was also a scriptwriter for the British TV series The Adventures of Aggie (1956) about the adventures of a fashion designer on international assignments.

Borneman directed the 20 minute Canadian documentary Northland (1942) and also the 15 minute documentary written by Leslie McFarlane, Target: Berlin (Objectif Berlin) (1944).


  • "Afterword". In: Cameron McCabe: The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor (Gregg Press: Boston, Mass., 1981) (includes the tapescript of a long interview with Borneman conducted in 1979 by Reinhold Aman, the editor of the scholarly U.S. periodical Maledicta; reprinted in the 1986 Penguin edition of the novel)
  • Ein lüderliches Leben. Portrait eines Unangepaßten, ed. Sigrid Standow (2001).

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