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Robinson, K. (2015). Correspondence 1904-1938: Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud edited by Ingeborg Meyer-Palmedo, translated by Nick Somers. Published by Polity, Cambridge, 2013; 536 pp; £30 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 31(2):267-269.

(2015). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 31(2):267-269

Book Reviews

Correspondence 1904-1938: Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud edited by Ingeborg Meyer-Palmedo, translated by Nick Somers. Published by Polity, Cambridge, 2013; 536 pp; £30 paperback

Review by:
Ken Robinson

To understand Freud's life we must try to steer between the Scylla of hagiography and its inevitable (and sometimes salacious) antithesis, the Charybdis of the actual and alleged less saintly aspects of his biography. These may have to do with, for example, the politics of the psychoanalytic ‘cause’ or his relationship with his sister-in-law Minna Bernays. For all that we might have Peter Gay and Ernest Jones (despite his tendency to hagiography) as pilots, we each have to chart our own course. This collection of correspondence between Freud and Anna Freud is a valuable aid to doing so. It allows us to test out the assumption that in his family he was as fundamentally patriarchal as his theory is taken to be. And it challenges a tendency to separate his scientific work from his ordinary family life. The letters are a reminder that Freud's public and private lives are inseparable. The humanity that characterized Freud as a clinician is alive in his and Anna's interest and concern for family members; and as Anna begins to find a place in psychoanalysis, professional concerns intertwine with family news, with, for example, concern for Martha's health or for Sophie's husband Max Halberstadt and their sons, Ernst and Heinele, after her death. The letters show too that just as Freud continued to revise his theory in response to fresh evidence so he adapted to Anna's refusal to lead a conventional life as wife and mother. He came to accept and value her choice to pursue a career in psychoanalysis, not to marry and to live closely with Dorothy Burlingham.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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