Lost in Translation: Commentary on Grappling with die letzten Dinge
This commentary forms a footnote to the article by Foss (2011).
I was intrigued to learn that the expression “die letzten Dinge” which is a quote from Totem and Tabu, by Strachey, is translated as “the earliest things”. Foss mentions this “in passing” and does not elaborate further on this point.
It is, though, an astonishing translation, as very important associations become lost.
Firstly: Über die letzten Dinge is the title of a book by Otto Weininger, published in 1904, a year after he had committed suicide. Weininger was a much read and controversial philosopher in Vienna, whose main work Geschlecht und Character, published in 1903, created heated discussions. Before publishing it, he had visited Freud and asked his opinion. Freud had advised him not to publish it.
When it came out, Wilhelm Fliess in Berlin discovered that it contained the idea of bisexuality, an idea he regarded as his. By this time, the relationship between him and Freud had broken down, but now Fliess wrote to Freud and accused him of leaking the idea to Weininger. Freud admitted having met Weininger but wrote that the manuscript he had read had been very different from that which had been published. He acknowledged that the leak could have been through another man, Swoboda, who was in therapy with Freud and a friend of Weininger.
Weininger was of Jewish origin but had converted to Christianity, and his writing had been characterized as both anti-semitic and misogynistic.
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