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Dupont, J. (1996). Freud and the Child Woman: The Memoirs of Fritz Wittels edited by Edward Timms New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995, xii + 188 pp., $27.50.. Psa. Books, 7(4):472-476.
(1996). Psychoanalytic Books, 7(4):472-476
Freud and the Child Woman: The Memoirs of Fritz Wittels edited by Edward Timms New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995, xii + 188 pp., $27.50.
Review by: Judith Dupont, M.D.
This book, written in an extremely pleasant way, and remarkably annotated and illustrated, is the condensation of two of Wittels's unpublished manuscripts: (1) an incomplete but well-written manuscript, “Wrestling with the Man: The Story of a Freudian”; and (2) the draft of a book of memories, “When Vienna Was Vienna: Reminiscences of a Former Resident.”
The title of the book reflects this double origin, but it is somewhat confusing. It conflates references to two different, though interrelated, stories. On one side is the story of Wittels, of his relationship with Karl Kraus, and of the child woman, a character created and celebrated by Wittels and Kraus, the whole included in a description of the Viennese cultural life around 1900. On the other side is the relationship of Wittels to Freud and to psychoanalysis. Consistency with this double story may be found in Wittels's ambivalent relationship to father figures: first Freud, then Kraus, and finally Freud again.
The book begins with Wittels's childhood in Vienna. He relates his mother's death, when he was six years old, an event that left a deep mark on him. According to Wittels, his whole vision of women was influenced by this early loss of a young mother. It must have been utterly different from that of somebody like Freud, who had his mother until old age. Then Wittels describes his family life; his sister, Toni; his brother, Max; and their nurse, Miss Schreiber. But the major figure in this first chapter is undoubtedly Vienna and the spirit permeating the cultural life of Vienna at the turn of the century.
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