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Britton, R. (1987). Bloomsbury/Freud. The Letters of James and Alix Strachey Walter Kendrick Chatto Windus 1924-1925 Edited by Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick. Chatto & Windus £14.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 3(1):85-88.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 3(1):85-88

Book Reviews

Bloomsbury/Freud. The Letters of James and Alix Strachey Walter Kendrick Chatto Windus 1924-1925 Edited by Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick. Chatto & Windus £14.

Review by:
Ronald Britton

“He was brilliant but there was too much Chopin”. This verdict on a performance by a pianist Georg Bartram in Berlin on 8 May 1925 was made characteristically by Alix Strachey and communicated to her husband James by letter at home in London. The letter containing this is one of a selection made by the editors from the correspondence which passed between the Stracheys during the period September 1924 to September 1925, a year of separation occasioned by Alix Strachey's analysis with Karl Abraham in Berlin. The analysis was terminated sadly by Abraham's illness and unexpected death in 1925. This was her second analysis; her first had been with Freud concurrently with her husband in Vienna and had qualified her as an analyst. Neurosis continued to plague her and she did not have enough emotional ‘Spielraum’ (elbow room), in her own words, to be an analyst. At Freud's suggestion she went to Abraham for more help.

The judgement on the pianist was similar to the one she made on a more famous performer, Edwin Fischer. “His technique was terrific” but “as soon as one notices temperament all is lost. Then he banged away at Chopin, I condemned the whole crew-piano, & composer.” I quote this because it conveys Alix's lively engaging style, and her seeking after a refined sensibility. This search at its best makes her discriminating but at its worst shades off into a fastidiousness and emotional anorexia, with distaste for direct emotional

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