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Eissler, K.R. (1951). An Unknown Autobiographical Letter by Freud and a Short Comment. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:319-324.

(1951). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32:319-324

An Unknown Autobiographical Letter by Freud and a Short Comment

K. R. Eissler

In 1907 a number of distinguished persons were invited by the well-known Viennese book dealer and publisher, Hugo Heller, to submit their choice of 'ten good books'. He then published in a little brochure thirty-two of the replies.

Among these was a letter from Sigmund Freud, of which a translation follows:

You ask me to name 'ten good books' but vouchsafe no word of explanation, and thus leave it to me not only to select the books but also to interpret your request. Accustomed as I am to heed minute signs, I must adhere to the terms in which you couch your engimatic request. You did not say 'the ten most magnificent works of world literature'—to which I should have had to reply, as would so many others, Homer, the tragedies of Sophocles, Goethe's Faust, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Macbeth, and so on.

Neither did you say 'the ten most significant books'—which would have involved the inclusion of such scientific achievements as that of Copernicus, the book on belief in witches by an old physician Johann Weier, Darwin's Descent of Man, and others. Nor did you even ask for 'favourite books', among which I should not have forgotten Milton's Paradise Lost and Heine's Lazarus. Hence I think that special significance attaches to your use of the word 'good', and that that qualification carries the same implication that we attach to 'good' friends, to whom a man owes some of his knowledge of life and his Weltanschauung: 'good' books are books which one has enjoyed and likes to recommend to others but which do not compel awe or dwarf a man by their great stature.

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