And psychoanalysis before the Second World War was an insular and incestuous field, where there was rarely more than a degree or two of separation between colleagues, lovers, patients, or friends.
Freud, who "adored rumors," was "always inclined to intervene in the amorous adventures of his disciples," and the early history of the field is filled with the picaresque consequences.
igmund Freud, still hailed as "the most famous and most controversial thinker of the 20th century," published 20 books and more than 300 articles during his long lifetime.
He also left extensive drafts, notes, diaries, and annotations in his vast library, ransomed from the Nazis by Princess Marie Bonaparte upon his forced relocation from Vienna to London in 1938, a year before he died.
And instead of a timeline of events at the end, Roudinesco provides as complete a list of Freud's patients as can be assembled from existing sources, as well as a family tree spanning five generations.
—cease being the only arbiter of what is experienced as true or not.
As the first biographer to have access to the full archive, Roudinesco is able to restore Freud to the world in which he actually lived. Their existential distress allowed male scientists to develop a new theory of subjectivity." In this new world, not only the doctor spoke: "Psychoanalysis restored speech to the subject," writes Roudinesco, and understood "the patient, rather than the doctor, possessed the power to come to terms with mental suffering." Roudinesco takes clear positions on controversial issues, carefully assessing the evidence and picking her way through paths strewn with polemic and innuendo.
And among her many ways of contextualizing Freud historically—in his culture, his family, among his intellectual friends and adversaries—Roudinesco also refreshingly includes, "as a counterpoint, the stories of selected patients, [who] led parallel lives that had nothing to do with the presentation of their 'cases' " by psychoanalysts, and whose interpretations are of interest in their own right. For example, despite the many criticisms of Freud's abandonment of the so-called seduction theory, she argues that he remained "the vigorous defender of suffering patients" against "the accusations of those who maintained that the confessions of hysterics were not trustworthy, or that they were induced by the doctors themselves." By creating a theory that "accepted simultaneously the existence of fantasy and that of trauma," Freud was insisting on the complexities of psychic life.
Of the more than 20,000 letters Freud wrote, about half survive. So why would we ever need another biography of Freud?
The man has already been the subject of several dozen biographies. religion, Freud and women, Freud the clinician, Freud the family man, Freud with his cigars, Freud and neurons, Freud and dogs . Precisely for the reason that Roudinesco wrote this brilliant new book: because Sigmund Freud, declared dead more times than anyone can count, is nevertheless very much alive.