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Mahl, G.F. (1989). Freud and his Father. By Marianne Krüll: Translated by Arnold J. Pomerans. New York/London: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1986. 294 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 58:150-156.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:150-156

Freud and his Father. By Marianne Krüll: Translated by Arnold J. Pomerans. New York/London: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1986. 294 pp.

Review by:
George F. Mahl

This book is a translation, enthusiastically endorsed by Krüll, of the original German edition (Freud und sein Vater, Munich: C. H. Beck, 1979, 345 pp.), with a few additions. The author, a sociologist, originally planned a short study relating Freud's intellectual, social, and economic background to the evolution of his theory. Several factors, preeminently the influence of Helm Stierlin's application of the family-systems approach to a psychobiography of Hitler, led her to attempt this analogous study of Freud.

Krüll's major thesis is that Freud's life and work were dominated by a mandate from his father: he must honor his father, especially by avoiding direct confrontation with his father's transgressions and by expunging his father's guilt, and he must solve the great mysteries of life. She suggests that the paternal transgressions included breaking with orthodox Hassidism, failing to honor his own father, and probably marital infidelity and/or adult masturbation. The fulfillment of the first part of this mandate indirectly caused Freud, she further suggests, to avoid recollection of his own childhood sexuality. She proposes that the crucial event in Jacob Freud's transmission of his mandate to Sigmund was their joint reading of the Bible during Sigmund's childhood, especially the story of Jacob, which she believes to be a "family romance" strikingly similar to the inferred story of Freud's father, one encapsulating the teaching of his own mandate to Sigmund. The death of Freud's father, according to Krüll, reactivated and reinforced this mandate to such a degree that it took precedence over all other considerations in determining Freud's entire subsequent career.

To provide context, support, and a demonstration of her thesis, Krüll has written boldly, forcefully, and with much scholarship. She begins with a detailed consideration of Freud's personal and scientific position at the time of his father's death and of the impact of the reactivation of his father's mandate on both: namely, the abandonment of the seduction hypothesis, which exculpated the father for past sexual sins against his children and the consequent freeing of Freud's intellectual creativity.

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