Elisabeth Roudinesco offers a bold and modern reinterpretation of the iconic founder of psychoanalysis. Based on new archival sources, this is Freud's biography for the twenty-first century--a critical appraisal, at once sympathetic and impartial, of a genius greatly admired and yet greatly misunderstood in his own time and in ours.Read more...
Elisabeth Roudinesco offers a bold and modern reinterpretation of the iconic founder of psychoanalysis. Based on new archival sources, this is Freud's biography for the twenty-first century--a critical appraisal, at once sympathetic and impartial, of a genius greatly admired and yet greatly misunderstood in his own time and in ours.
Roudinesco traces Freud's life from his upbringing as the eldest of eight siblings in a prosperous Jewish-Austrian household to his final days in London, a refugee of the Nazis' annexation of his homeland. She recreates the milieu of fin de siecle Vienna in the waning days of the Habsburg Empire--an era of extraordinary artistic innovation, given luster by such luminaries as Gustav Klimt, Stefan Zweig, and Gustav Mahler. In the midst of it all, at the modest residence of Berggasse 19, Freud pursued his clinical investigation of nervous disorders, blazing a path into the unplumbed recesses of human consciousness and desire.
Yet this revolutionary who was overthrowing cherished notions of human rationality and sexuality was, in his politics and personal habits, in many ways conservative, Roudinesco shows. In his chauvinistic attitudes toward women, and in his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the growing threat of Hitler until it was nearly too late, even the analytically-minded Freud had his blind spots. Alert to his intellectual complexity--the numerous tensions in his character and thought that remained unresolved--Roudinesco ultimately views Freud less as a scientific thinker than as the master interpreter of civilization and culture.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-17
- Reviewer: Staff
This biography represents a substantial, if not groundbreaking, addition to the extensive body of work on the father of psychoanalysis. The very fact that Sigmund Freuds life has inspired a deluge of biographies is perhaps Roudinescos greatest hurdle; she herself mentions it at the outset and throughout, and she often relates her narrative to the many that came before. One of the ways Roudinesco distinguishes her approach, she claims, is by looking past Freuds critical acclaim to the controversies and social contexts that surrounded him. Nevertheless, the narrative has all of the elements one might expect of a Freud biography, such as the preoccupations with incest and the many literary and philosophical ideas that shaped him. Perhaps more distinctive are the passages about how Freuds ideas spread geographicallyincluding an entire chapter devoted to Americaand a description of the exact moment Freud developed psychoanalysis. What is largely missing is the promised engagement with Freud in the present day; the focus is instead squarely on Freuds own time. This book might be most appropriate for those unfamiliar with Freud and his world; those seeking to understand his continuing relevance should look elsewhere. (Nov.)