THE 400 EELS OF SIGMUND FREUD by A. G. Mojtabai

THE 400 EELS OF SIGMUND FREUD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is the second novel by the author of the disconcerting Mundome (1964) which received all kinds of deservedly admiring attention. Now a bleakly worthy summer is spent at Four Winds (an actual place in the author's past), a little colony for a select handful of youngsters who are given an opportunity to work on their own scientific projects. It is the conception of an old messianic dreamer, a ""spinner of tales and nostrums,"" who at the lectern tells the story of the 400 eels which Freud dissected with such painstaking difficulty, only to abandon science for ""other""--viz. lesser--""things."" Under the guidance of several teacher-counselors, the students go about their business be it anoxia on the brain or audiogenic seizures in mice. But one boy, Isaiah, is a rigid, alien presence. Beyond his unattractive appearance and diffident manner, he's not interested at all in that scientific world which will enable him to achieve success. At heart he's a musician and his fiddle contains all his real love and aspiration. At the close, the little lesson of the 400 eels will have been all too tragically substantiated--Isaiah, the wild cell in their midst, will be lost to science, to music, to the world. With what remarkable success Miss Mojtabai manages to isolate so many things: the protocols of housekeeping in this little bastion; the two restless wives--one with only her bird to talk to, the other wondering why she can't look at the green hills around them ""without thinking of mentholated anything."" But primarily she zeros in on the cold gleam of Progress for Mankind which ignores the antinomies of the human spirit. This is a splendid writer, suggestive, precise, and touching at one and the same time.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1976
Publisher: Simon & Schuster