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Freud's elegantly crafted and provocative case histories gave "unusual, lively accounts of the everyday dramas of the private insanity dissimulated under the appearances of complete normality." Awarded the Goethe Prize for Literature in 1930, he was "inventing a new origin narrative in which the modern subject was the hero not of a simple pathology but of a tragedy." In each of his famous cases, Freud drew on Greek myth, anthropology, history, and literature, writing "with immense narrative talent, an account that could be read as a novel." Roudinesco demonstrates convincingly that despite Ernest Jones's determined effort to remake Freud solely in the image of a scientist, he remained attracted to the occult, to mythology and legend—and of course, to dreams.
The Americans treat me the way a child treats a new doll: fun to play with, but soon to be replaced by another new toy." Ironically, as Roudinesco notes: She is excellent at identifying and critiquing Freud's blind spots without vilifying him in a more general sense, allowing him to be a fallible person living in a historical moment, not a symbol.
And she acknowledges his personal weaknesses without denying his intellectual courage: "Despite years of work on himself, Freud was as neurotic as ever," she remarks of the man who, at age 61, continued to suffer from various physical and mental ills and avidly to smoke cigars, despite the first signs of what was later diagnosed as cancer of the mouth, the disease from which he would ultimately die after dozens of operations and years of disfigurement and suffering.
Respectful, except to those who make serious errors or simply repeat rumors, she is happy to accept the insights of others but still stakes out her own interpretations.
In so doing, she gives us anew the man who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to shape our ways of understanding ourselves.
He never saw the point of Surrealism, or the avant-garde, or Expressionism, and remained attached to "the world of yesterday," as his friend Stefan Zweig called it.
Roudinesco admits that "like many founders, Freud chose to be a ferocious guardian of his own concepts and inventions," and she is understandably impatient with the "senseless jousts" in which he and Carl Jung struggled to establish the superiority of their respective versions of analytic theory and method.Indeed, as the French historian and psychoanalyst Élisabeth Roudinesco remarks: "Every moment of Freud's life has been discussed and every line of his work interpreted in multiple ways." There have been countless essays on "Freud and . And despite the vast profusion of materials by and about him, or perhaps as a consequence of them, "we have great difficulty knowing who Freud really was, so thoroughly have the commentaries, fantasies, legends, and rumors masked the reality of this thinker, in his time and in ours." The need is even more acute now that the Sigmund Freud Archive at the Library of Congress—with reams of correspondence, family documents, patients' files, notebooks, photographs, school records, interviews, etc.—has finally, after almost 70 years of continuous collection, been opened fully to researchers.Roudinesco, author of many previous works on psychoanalysis, has made extensive use of this huge trove, and Freud: In His Time and Ours is the culmination of her life's work.Of the more than 20,000 letters Freud wrote, about half survive. So why would we ever need another biography of Freud?The man has already been the subject of several dozen biographies. religion, Freud and women, Freud the clinician, Freud the family man, Freud with his cigars, Freud and neurons, Freud and dogs . Precisely for the reason that Roudinesco wrote this brilliant new book: because Sigmund Freud, declared dead more times than anyone can count, is nevertheless very much alive.Refreshingly, Roudinesco restores some vivid examples of what appear to be Freud's shocking departures from "correct" psychoanalytic practice—loaning money to his patients, analyzing his daughter—to the world in which they actually occurred.The many specifications and boundaries now considered the hallmark, indeed sometimes the caricature, of the psychoanalyst—remaining largely silent, taking a neutral stance, never giving advice—were only rarely practiced by Freud.He persuaded every analyst who had known Freud personally as well as most members of his extended family to contribute their own documents and testimonies.Eissler then imposed hegemonic control over this entire archive, refusing access to professional historians and granting it only to those psychoanalysts who were members of the International Psychoanalytic Association.No matter how much or how little you know of Freud, reading it is eye-opening and deeply satisfying.Scrupulous and exhaustive in her use of every imaginable source, Roudinesco performs a huge public service by debunking dozens of errors, myths, caricatures, and rumors that have long circulated about Freud.