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Chankin, D.O. (1989). The Freud Scenario. Jean-Paul Sartre. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, xvii + 549 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 76(1):134-136.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Review, 76(1):134-136

The Freud Scenario. Jean-Paul Sartre. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, xvii + 549 pp.

Review by:
Donald O. Chankin

For Sartre, Freud's invention of psychoanalysis was possible only after his attachment to a long series of father figures was severed. As Freud says to Fliess toward the end of the first draft of Sartre's scenario: “A man of forty who's afraid of growing up? Brucke, Meynert, Breuer, you: so many fathers! Not counting Jakob Freud who begot me!” (p. 273). In other words, Freud has to learn the lesson that Sartre, whose father died shortly after he was born, always knew. Sartre says in his autobiography The Words (1964) written some six years after The Freud Scenario: “There is no good father, that's the rule. Don't lay the blame on men but on the bond of paternity, which is rotten” (Sartre, 1964, p. 19).

Perhaps it was the idea of seeing Freud as a figure who also was left alone with words, but words connecting him to patients rather than to abstract ideas, which prompted Sartre to write this scenario at John Huston's request. Huston had asked Sartre to write a script concentrating on the “heroic” period of discovery when Freud, wrestling with his conflicts, would invent psychoanalysis. The basic idea, according to Huston, was of “Freud as an adventurer. I wanted to concentrate on that episode like a detective story” (vii). The result was one completed draft that would run about seven hours. Asked by Huston to make cuts, Sartre wrote a second, incomplete version that threatened to become even longer than the first. When Sartre refused to make further cuts, Huston had the script entirely redone by professionals, and Sartre refused to have his name among the film credits. The movie, of course, was Freud: The Secret Passion (1962), starring Montgomery Clift as Freud.

To develop his passion for the secret life of the mind, for the “invisible world” of “forces,” as the script has it, Freud has initially to follow in the footsteps of a precursor, of an older man, until he refuses to take what Freud views as the next logical stop. Meynert, Charcot, and Breuer are all role models. Meynert, whom we know from his own collection of symptoms, including an off and on again limp and being a closet hysteric, talks of hysteria as a “supposed illness,” and of Charcot as a charlatan.

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