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Blum, H.P. (1995). Freud Correspondence. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:869-873.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:869-873

Freud Correspondence

Review by:
Harold P. Blum

Freud's genius is unique in the history and exposition of culture. Freud had a profound influence on interpretive approaches to the arts and humanities, and was not only a pioneer of science, but a “man of letters.” What is not so well known and appreciated is that Freud's voluminous correspondence exceeds the Standard Edition in its size and literary scope. Freud is probably the most prolific of all writers of letters, exceeding the output of Goethe and other masters of correspondence. Extrapolating from the number of letters (890) known to have been written during his last fifteen months of life, when he was old and dying of cancer, it is possible to offer an educated guess that Freud wrote 30,000 or more letters during his lifetime. During some of the years he kept a lengthy ledger of his letters. The recently published Brief Chronicle spans the decade 1929-1939 and begins with Freud noting his not being recommended for the Nobel Prize. He tended to use paper on both sides. Eschewing typewriter or secretary, he replied promptly to his correspondents with almost no changes in his handwritten letters. His capacity to attend to detail and to find the time, energy, and concentration for his correspondence remain astounding. He wrote in the evening after seeing patients and between seeing patients; he found spare time that did not exist for still more correspondence. He wrote almost daily letters to his fiancée, which were then followed by the voluminous letters to Fliess. His correspondents included unknowns as well as many individuals who were or became famous in their own right. Freud wrote in a variety of languages. He wrote letters in Spanish to his adolescent friend, Eduardo Silberstein; he wrote in French; he wrote letters in English to Ernest Jones, stating that he was corresponding in English to spare Jones the difficulty of dealing with his own Gothic German. His command of language was integral to his work, and he was able, even in his later years, to recite ancient Greek poetry from memory. As an adolescent, he could translate Sophocles and write about Oedipus Rex for an examination.

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