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Freud, S. (2004). The Reading Cure: Books as Lifetime Companions. Am. Imago, 61(1):77-87.

(2004). American Imago, 61(1):77-87

Freud's Grandchildren

The Reading Cure: Books as Lifetime Companions

Sophie Freud

“When my son committed suicide I got through life reading the collected works of Jane Austen.”

—A friend

My daughter calls me every Sunday from her Brooklyn home, and I instantly start to talk to her about the current two books in my life: one the book I am reading, the other the book I am listening to, an audiobook. She gets impatient with me. She wonders why I am transforming a personal telephone chat into a professional literary discussion—she is a professor of literature. I explain to her that discussing books is to me an intensely personal matter. She enjoys discussing the vicissitudes of personal relationships. So do I, namely those of the characters in my books. Books are my best, my most faithful, my most reliable friends. People have to meet rather high standards to match my books in terms of being good company.

I am talking in the present, but books have always had that role. I remember thinking in my adolescence that life would be meaningless without books, and I have not changed my mind. I lead two parallel lives, one my so-called real life, and the other my literary life, which is sometimes the more compelling one.

I read books for companionship, for enjoyment, for solace, for information, for distraction, for self-improvement, for self-knowledge, for understanding, for enlarging my world, for enhancing my compassion and empathy with totally different others.

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