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Silverman, M.M. (2014). Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst. Adam Phillips, (2014). Yale University Press. Mod. Psychoanal., 39(2):247-252.
   

(2014). Modern Psychoanalysis, 39(2):247-252

Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst. Adam Phillips, (2014). Yale University Press

Review by:
Marcus M. Silverman

I have long been envious of Adam Phillips. Can there be a more humbling intellectual experience than having a brilliant idea, only to have it pointed out to you that someone else did it first? On a massive scale? And better than you could have possibly imagined? From books like On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life (1998) all the way to Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life (2013) and now Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst (2014). His earlier work largely covered the intersection where psychoanalysis comes together with philosophy/ontology, literature, and culture. And he has tackled issues ranging from kindness to tickling to the multifacetedness and hopelessness of choice (in Missing Out), Melanie Klein, Hart Crane, to flatulence, with equal eloquence, originality, and insight. His mastery of language is rare in psychoanalytic (or any intellectually serious) writing today, and with it he manages a truly arduous task, possibly the task, with seemingly very little effort—to make his observations accessible without sacrificing the weight of their substance.

It is perhaps in that spirit then that I imagine he was chosen to write Becoming Freud, part of the “Jewish Lives” series published by Yale University Press to, in their words, “illuminate the imprint of eminent Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the breadth and complexity of Jewish experience from antiquity through the present.” That being said, Phillips doesn't make much of Freud specifically as a Jew. There are some references to the “Jews of Europe at the turn of the century” and resigned framing of Freud's family within the lens of Judaism. It's clear from the start that doesn't interest Phillips much.

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