The English renditions of Freud's writings distort much of the essential humanism that permeates the originals."" So says...



The English renditions of Freud's writings distort much of the essential humanism that permeates the originals."" So says psychoanalyst Bettelheim in this short, rather disorganized essay--and though there's considerable overstatement and iffiness in his attempts to link those distortions to the supposed state of US psychoanalysis, his examination of the Freud translations is often fascinating, provocative reading. Throughout, Bettelheim stresses Freud's own move away from the natural sciences, his feeling of kinship for history, archaeology, philosophy; the emphasis is on analysis as a study of the ""soul""--direct, involved, unclinical. But, in translation, Freud's plain, resonant terms--the ""I,"" the ""It""--became Latinized, jargonized: the ego and id. His modest titles became more dogmatic-sounding. His references to myth (Oedipus, Psyche) were crudely taken over by uncultured folk who missed the nuances. (Bettelheim is more than a bit patronizing about Americans.) His references to ""soul"" were often deleted. His carefully coined wordings were often transformed ""into gobbledygook English."" (Parapraxis, cathexis.) And while some of Bettelheim's criticisms of Freud-in-English seem inconsequential, most are convincingly shown to involve a basic misunderstanding or distortion--often stemming from ""a deliberate wish to perceive Freud strictly within the framework of medicine,"" to distance the reader from Freud, to soften Freud's tragic view of life. Unfortunately, however, instead of going on to document and demonstrate the effect of such mistranslations on US Freudians, Bettelheim merely makes offhand, vague, exaggerated comments which undermine the authority of his argument. ""American psychology has become all analysis--to the complete neglect of the psyche, or soul,"" says Bettelheim; and he attacks those who mistakenly celebrate promiscuity, narcissism, and ""pragmatic meliorism"" in Freud's name. (Exactly who isn't made clear.) Weak, then, as a cause-and-effect study of Freud's fate in America--but the word-by-word explorations are illuminating, and the way has been opened for further, fuller historical approaches to psychoanalysis.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0394710363

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1982

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