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Freud, S. (1936). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Thomas Mann, November 29, 1936. Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873-1939, 432-434.

Freud, S. (1936). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Thomas Mann, November 29, 1936. Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873-1939, 432-434

Letter from Sigmund Freud to Thomas Mann, November 29, 1936 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sigmund Freud

Vienna IX, Berggasse 19
November 29, 1936

Dear Friend

The beneficent personal impressions of your last visit to Vienna keep coming back to my mind. Not long ago I laid aside your new volume of the Joseph legend 1 with the melancholy thought that this beautiful experience is now over and that I shall probably not be able to read the sequel.

The effect of this story combined with the idea of the “lived vita” in your lecture and the mythological prototype has started within me a trend of thought which I am making the pretext of a talk with you as though you were sitting opposite me here in my study, but without wishing to provoke a polite reply, let alone a detailed appreciation. I myself do not take the experiment very seriously, but it does have for me a certain attraction, something like the cracking of a whip for an ex-coachman.

I keep wondering if there isn't a figure in history for whom the life of Joseph was a mythical prototype, allowing us to detect the phantasy of Joseph as the secret daemonic motor behind the scenes of his complex life.

I am thinking of Napoleon I.

(a)  He was a Corsican, the second son of a large family of brothers and sisters. His eldest brother was called Joseph, and this fact, as chance and necessity are wont to combine in human life, was fateful for him. In a Corsican family the privilege of the eldest is guarded with particularly sacred awe. (I think Alphonse Daudet once described this in a novel. In Le Nabob? Or am I mistaken? Was it in some other book? In Balzac?) By this Corsican tradition a normal human relationship becomes exaggerated. The elder brother is the natural rival; the younger one feels for him an elemental, unfathomably deep hostility for which in later life the expressions “death wish” and “murderous intent” may be found appropriate.

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