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Kovel, J. (1985). Sins of the Fathers. Free Associations, 1B(1):113-124.

(1985). Free Associations, 1B(1):113-124

Sins of the Fathers

Joel Kovel

Essay Review of The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, N.Y., Farrar, Straus and Giroux; London, Faber and Faber, 1984, Pp. 256, £9.95; and In the Freud Archive, by Janet Malcolm, N.Y., Alfred A. Knopf; London, Jonathan Cape, 1984, Pp. 165, £8.95

Poor Jeffrey Masson. Only a few years ago he had succeeded in penetrating the highest echelons of the international Freudian establishment. Anointed by Kurt Eissler, gatekeeper of the Freud Archives, to be his successor, and given unprecedented permission by Anna Freud to explore the documents of Freud's London home, Masson was the rage of the psychoanalytic world. Clever, handsome and enormously self-confident, he glided through the watering-holes of the analytic cognoscenti, alighting now at this cocktail party, now at that convention, or as they are fond of calling it, ‘scientific presentation’ of an analytic institute. He was even scheduled to occupy the Freud house in Hampstead upon Anna's death and to convert it into a museum and study centre.

But then Masson spoke to the press about a scandalous turn of events he had unearthed in the Freud papers. An internal professional matter became mass culture. Eissler was enraged. Anna Freud was enraged. Masson was sacked. The press, discovering one scandal on top of another, became even more interested. Masson, declining from Wunderkind to pariah, sank out of sight from the world of established psychoanalysis. Now all the saviour of his profession has to show for his efforts is the role of protagonist in Janet Malcolm's elegant recounting of the affair, and The Assault on Truth. Poor Jeffrey Masson.


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