CURIOSITIES OF THE SELF by Theodore Reik

CURIOSITIES OF THE SELF

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The indefatigable Dr. Reik is once again fishing in the lake of memory (a yearly activity it seems), and once again he dredges up an interesting Jumble of clinical notes, psychological artifacts, halfway house philosophy, and inevitable references to Freud, friend and colleague of old, revolutionary Vienna. Reik's rambling, gentlemanly style is sometimes difficult to follow, especially in the first half of the book, which wanders through the various aspects of time (the future can only be known through the past etc.), and then settles on a long discussion concerning fantasy killing. Here Reik not only pillages Balzac, Goethe, Dostoevsky and the Oedipal situation to make his points, but also draws upon his own Fragments of a Great Confession in which he explained how he blamed himself for his father's death. These pages are rather involved though the end result is elementary in the extreme. One illustration: when someone says ""Drop dead!"" that implies an unconscious death wish; ditto for ""Go to hell!"" The book's concluding chapters are far more valuable and offer an excellent synoptic history of the Jews as well as a fascinating study of the repetition compulsion within the race. The Jews immigrate to a new country; they become prominent in the arts and commerce; eventually hostility is awakened in the host people. ""The end is always the same. The Jews are either exterminated or are forced to leave the country."" Within this framework, Reik debates a number of pressing questions, usually from a psychic-cultural perspective, re the ""chosen people,"" the eternal pilgrimage and the meaning to humanity at large. His conclusions are basically pessimistic, albeit hoping for a ""revolutionary change."" The investigation is well worth reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1965
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux