SIGMUND FREUD by Giovanni Costigan


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Although it's rather like a sand castle compared to the Gibraltar Ernest Jones has given us, this short biography sketches in the Master's features with objectivity, intelligence and charm. Wisely quoting his subject at every juncture, in every possible context (correspondence, works, conversation), the author makes three things clear. Infantile sexuality, repression, the Oedipal situation, the death wish, civilization-as-sublimation, etc., are seen as much a part of Freud's empiricism as they are of his own ""neurotic"" drives. (Just one instance: he thought about Death as much as any poet, even fixing his demise at 51.) ""An intimate friend,"" he said, ""and a hated enemy have always been indispensable to my emotional life."" How true! With members of the Psychoanalytic Movement, his ambivalence predominated. (Here, alas, the biographer's a bit sloppy: Jung is mistreated and the tantalizing Freud-Fliess relationship isn't amplified). Finally, the intellectual contradictions: an 18th century humanist on the one hand, a pessimist on the other (""I do not break my head very much about good and evil but I have found little that is good about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash""), a chaste family man and the exponent of libido, a scientist and a kind of failed novelist. Only a very great man could harbor such inconsistencies, use them to advantage, and then structure with such clarity a system for deciphering unconscious motivations. Freud was a natural aristocrat; the story of his slow, persistent development, his profound insights, his quietly courageous life, will repay any reader.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1965
Publisher: Macmillan