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Killingmo, B. (1990). Characters on the Stage: Ibsen's “Life-Lie” Revisited. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 13(2):90-102.

(1990). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 13(2):90-102

Characters on the Stage: Ibsen's “Life-Lie” Revisited

Bjørn Killingmo

On the 23rd September 1939, Sigmund Freud died in his home, in Maresfield Gardens, London, at the age of 83 years. After the entry of the Nazis into Austria the year before, he had taken refuge in London. In spite of a number of provocations towards his family by the Gestapo, Freud was reluctant to leave Vienna. However, he finally yielded to pressure from friends and adherents who worked to bring him into safety, and left Vienna on 4 June 1938.

In a letter to his son Ernst shortly before his departure, he expressed a hope:

“I sometimes compare myself with the old Jacob, who, in his old age, was taken by his children to Egypt … It is to be hoped that the result will not be the same, an exodus from Egypt. It is high time that Ahasuerus came to rest somewhere” (Schur, 1972p. 500)

It is worth while noting that Freud compares himself not only with Jacob—the name of his father (see footnote, Schur, 1972p. 500)—but also with Ahasuerus, the wandering Jewish shoemaker who, according to legend, was doomed to live for ever because he had refused to allow Christ to rest on the way to Golgata. When Freud likens himself to the Ahasuerus-figure, it is unlikely that he wishes simply to express his resigned acceptance of the exile.

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