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SIMONNE Jameson has known enough trauma during her long life to turn into a neurotic mess.
She was sexually abused for three years as a child in Nazi-occupied Paris, only to recover and be left homeless with four children after being deserted by her husband years later. But her life force remains strong.
"If people take advantage of their opportunities, there is nothing we cannot do," she said.
"My philosophy is to teach people to stop complaining and concentrate on what they can achieve."
A book Jameson wrote on her life, Men or Rats, is being turned into a film this year, starring Ewan McGregor. But she says that, at 79, she is not interested in the dark aspects of her life.
She prefers to concentrate on two of the remarkable men she has known — pioneering psychotherapist Carl Jung and surrealist artist Salvador Dali. The two men feature in a four-hour lecture series she is giving next month, starting on May 19.
"People need to know about them," she says. "This is something I want to do before I turn 80."
The differences from Jameson's early life are stark. She was an isolated 12-year-old Jewish girl in occupied Paris in 1941 after her family escaped to the French countryside.
She had been left behind because a police commissioner convinced her parents that he would protect her. Instead, he took her to a rat-infested cellar. The rapes by pedophile police officers began within days.
When Jameson emerged from hiding three years later, she had tuberculosis and weighed only 38 kilograms. She was sent to a sanatorium for two years.
"It was very important to be still alive," she said. "I don't remember grieving about anyone except my sister. It is always necessary to go forward."
This is what she did, adopting a philosophy of forgiveness but not forgetting. Her first marriage lasted just three months, but it was long enough to produce a daughter. Then she married a Swiss man who was friends with Jung and she began to study psychoanalysis. "But I was pregnant when I met Jung and he would have nothing to do with me," she said.
Instead, he introduced her to Dr Jolande Jacobi, another Jewish woman. Jameson credits her with providing enormous help.
She knew Jung for three years in the 1950s, and was one of the few women in his circle not to be under his spell. Her world fell apart again when her second husband left and sold the family home, forcing Jameson to take her children to Rome for work. It was a move that added another layer of complexity to her life.
As well as working as a psychotherapist, she became interested in art, running a gallery and working as a critic. This led to meeting artists, including Dali, Picasso and Chagall.
Jameson had discovered her two main professional interests — psychology and art. She was awarded the gold medal of France for services to humanity in 1967, then married again and moved to London.
She moved to Adelaide in 1975, working as a child psychologist. She now lives in Melbourne and runs Art Sans Frontieres, a non-profit organisation that promotes exhibitions here and overseas.
Her fourth husband died four years ago. But she has fallen in love again. "I have been positive all my life and even though my son says I should have turned lesbian, I have always been looking for the next man."