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Burnham, D.L. (1974). Talent and Genius: The Fictitious Case of Tausk Contra Freud: By K. R. Eissler. New York: Quadrangle Books, 1971, 403 pp., $12.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:205-211.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:205-211

Talent and Genius: The Fictitious Case of Tausk Contra Freud: By K. R. Eissler. New York: Quadrangle Books, 1971, 403 pp., $12.95.

Review by:
Donald L. Burnham, M.D.

Toward the end of his life, Freud, "… aroused by the threat that you wish to become my biographer …" wrote to Arnold Zweig, "No, I am far too fond of you to allow such a thing to happen. Anyone turning biographer commits himself to lies, to concealment, to hypocrisy, to flattery, and even to hiding his own lack of understanding, for biographical truth is not to be had… Truth is unobtainable; humanity does not deserve it…"

At first glance, I misread the last phrase as "humanity does not preserve it…" Upon reflection, it occurred to me that both deserving and preserving the truth are integral to the work of a devoted and admirably equipped archivist. I had in mind Kurt Eissler's Talent and Genius.

Eissler's book is a cry of pain and outrage against the mishandling and distortion of the truth in Paul Roazen's (1969) Brother Animal: The Story of Freud and Tasuk. Eissler tells us that he found it ugly and wearisome to occupy himself with the task of rebutting Roazen's defamation of Freud's personality, but that he undertook the task with some hope of countering current resistance and attacks on psychoanalysis, of which Roazen's book is but one example.

One can readily empathize with Eissler, Secretary of the Freud Archives, when confronted by a book which, under a thin guise of evenhanded historical scholarship, employs the tone of a scandalmonger to tendentiously accuse Freud of destroying a fellow-analyst. Roazen's contention, only partially balanced by muted praise of Freud's genius and monumental achievements, is that Freud, as master, was inhuman, heartless, and ruthless in driving to suicide his pupil Tausk, whose brilliance, originality, and way with women aroused Freud's envy and jealousy, which found expression in conflicts over intellectual priority and plagiarism. Presumably Eissler might have ignored Roazen's hatchet-job as not worthy of dignifying by refutation had there not appeared reviews, including several by psychoanalysts, which quite unquestioningly accepted Roazen's construction.

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