|The Enigma of Freud|
5 October: The Enigma of Freud
Matthew Del Nevo
I want to start by talking about the enigma of Freud, in order to recall us to his reality. I started rereading Freud because of Lou Salomé. And also because of the new Freud translations that have been done by Penguin Books, which restore the literary feel of Freud. The Standard Edition of Freud by Stratchey in English was criticised by Bruno Bettelheim in the seventies, and this put me off Freud at the time when a lot of other people in the social sciences and literary theory were reading him. Bettelheim’s book, Freud and Man’s Soul informed me, to my surprise, that Freud never mentioned “the psyche”, but soul, or Seele in German. Freud never mentioned the ego, he never mentioned the superego, he never mentioned the id. In fact, Freud deliberately sought to stay close to literary language. He spoke of the das Ich, the I, not the ego, and the das Es, the It, not the Id. Well the new translations put the English closer to Freud’s marvellous prose style. And now I can better appreciate how richly Freudian some of the French post-modern philosophy is, as for instance in the writing of Jacques Derrida or Hélène Cixous, not because they follow some supposed Freudian ideology or other, they don’t; but because of the texture of their writing and thinking. It is writing full of the ruses of the soul, the personal, of hidden nooks and crannies: sublimations, deployments, dreams, obsessions, failures, fictions, fallacies and most of all, interminable interpretations, from one undecidable matter to the next. And this is one of the reasons why the Cambridge philosophers said this is not philosophy. But coming back to Lou Salomé, what struck me about Freud, reading her, was the greatness of Freud, and the enigma.
Freud had folded the poem and tapped it on the arm of his chair and snorted: “Pah! who’d believe that! A bout of the common cold would suffice to cure a man of such cheap sentiment!” They recalled this awkward moment again sixteen years later, the demolition of Europe lying between their present and their past. “And then something occurred which I didn’t understand myself,” Lou writes, “something I was powerless to hold back, that crossed my trembling lips in rebellion against his destiny and his martyrdom:
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