Includes an afterword by the author
In the Freud Archives tells the story of an unlikely encounter among three men: K. R. Eissler, the venerable doyen of psychoanalysis; Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, a flamboyant, restless forty-two-year-old Sanskrit scholar turned psychoanalyst turned virulent anti-Freudian; and Peter Swales, a mischievous thirty-five-year-old former assistant to the Rolling Stones and self-taught Freud scholar. At the center of their Oedipal drama are the Sigmund Freud Archivesfounded, headed, and jealously guarded by Eisslerwhose sealed treasure gleams and beckons to the community of Freud scholarship as if it were the Rhine gold.
Janet Malcolm's fascinating book first appeared some twenty years ago, when it was immediately recognized as a rare and remarkable work of nonfiction. A story of infatuation and disappointment, betrayal and revenge, In the Freud Archives is essentially a comedy. But the powerful presence of Freud himself and the harsh bracing air of his ideas about unconscious life hover over the narrative and give it a tragic dimension.
About the Author
Janet Malcolm was born in Prague. She was educated at the High School of Music and Art, in New York, and at the University of Michigan. Along with In the Freud Archives, her books include Diana and Nikon: Essays on Photography, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession, The Journalist and the Murderer, The Purloined Clinic: Selected Writings, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, The Crime of Sheila McGough, and Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey. She wrote about the trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova, the mother of Michelle, in her book Iphigenia in Forest Hills, just out in paperback. Her collection Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers will be published in the spring of 2013.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked up this book because I was interested in reading something by Janet Malcolm (had heard good things about her work) and it was published by NYRB. Many books that I¿ve read lately have made me want to read more on the topic but not this one. The story is entertaining and bizarre and Malcolm wonderfully captures the obsessive, self-aggrandizing, egotistical and willfully blind personalities of her subjects and their petty but far-reaching conflicts. I didn¿t feel the need to read more about Freud though.The first part describes the falling out of Jeffrey Masson and K.R. Eissler. Masson, a brilliant and charismatic but self-involved and blunt professor of Sanskrit, developed an interest in psychoanalysis and won the confidence of Eissler. Eissler was a highly regarded Freudian and, along with Freud¿s daughter Anna Freud, controlled access to the Freud Archives, a trove of Freud¿s letters and writing. Masson was hired by the Archives and planned to publish the complete letters of Freud to Fleiss, a doctor and his confidante. However, a lecture and article in the New York Times where Masson criticized Freud led to a break in his relationship with Eissler and the loss of his position.The second part adds another character into the mix, Peter Swales. A self-taught obsessive with a knack for finding undiscovered documents, Swales caught the attention of Eissler and Masson. He almost immediately took a dislike to Masson and his constant complaining culminated in a 45-page hate letter that was sent to Masson and others. He was somewhat responsible for Masson¿s collapse ¿ he at least set in motion the events having a good idea of how Masson would respond. While Masson comes off as a typical egotistical, rude, intelligent and charismatic man and Eissler as a brilliant and revered elder statesman who had a narrow dogmatic focus, Swales seems as though he could possibly be unhinged. However, Masson was the one who was lawsuit-happy, suing people at the Freud Archives as well as Malcolm which she mentions in a postscript.I found the debates about Freud¿s meanings and though processes to be less interesting that the interpersonal dramas of the academics. I don¿t think this is Malcolm¿s fault ¿ I have a bit of a bias against Freud. Some of the excerpts printed also show him at his worst ¿ in one case, Freud decided that a patient¿s problems can be cured with nasal surgery but this leads to gruesome complications. The book didn¿t change my opinion of Freud but I would like to read more by Malcolm.
"You have allowed me, in a show of great confidence, to go through your cupboard."A very interesting book, full of twists and turns and drama-queens masquerading as Freud scholars. Also, it was quite funny in parts. Ultimately I felt like it was maybe too harsh on Masson and not critical enough of Eissler. I found Eissler's nature to protect Freud's legacy very suspect. And I was never convinced that Masson's theories were wrong (at least we can safely say his main point is blatantly correct, now that we have the benefit of time on our side: that Freud's idea that people's psychological illnesses happened only in their heads and are not related in any way to reality is wrong). So what I'm saying is that Masson made some good (and correct!) points, and those points should be evaluated independently of how he treated/manipulated his fellow man. Swales was also an interesting character, uniquely flawed and brilliant. It seems like all involved were cast in a negative light, though Masson gets the brunt of it."His narcissism was wounded when you withdrew your approval" / "Well, my narcissism was wounded when I was proved to be a fool!"