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Akhtar, S. (2014). Rescuing Psychoanalysis from Freud and other Essays in Re-vision Peter L. Rudnytsky Karnac, London, 2011; 188 pp; £24.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(5):1035-1038.

(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(5):1035-1038

Rescuing Psychoanalysis from Freud and other Essays in Re-vision Peter L. Rudnytsky Karnac, London, 2011; 188 pp; £24.99

Review by:
Salman Akhtar

In a back-cover endorsement, the distinguished psychoanalyst, Rosemary Balsam, declares this book's author, Peter Rudnytsky, to be “one of the best - if not the best - scholars of our field today.” I agree with her assessment. In fact, I would go one step further and say that Rudnytsky is not only our ‘best scholar’ (i.e. thorough in reading, meticulous in research, and innovative in interpretation), he is the most enjoyable as well. His writing style is a seamless blend of historical documentation, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the lives of our pioneers, theoretical argument, juicy trivia, lament and unexpected revelations. Unmasking the personal determinants of puzzling impasses and impressive advances in the theoretical evolution of our field, Rudnytsky dazzles us with his investigative zeal.

His book, Rescuing Psychoanalysis from Freud and Other Essays in Re-vision, opens with a chapter that documents Freud's authoritarian bent and claims that it was fueled by the need to keep his affair with his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, secret. Freud's stern and controlling attitude colored his relations with Jung and Ferenczi. The “all-consuming secret” (p. 14) of his having committed “not simply adultery but also incest in both a psychological and biblical sense” (p. 14) led Freud to put his authority above the search for truth. Rudnytsky's Freud is a deeply flawed character: hypocritical, authoritarian, and capable of domestic duplicity and professional betrayal. Striving for balance, Rudnytsky makes the following statement:

To those who reject Freud out of hand, I would say that his discovery of psychoanalysis is indeed one of the supreme achievements in all of human history, worthy to set beside the scientific revolutions of Copernicus and Darwin. To those who retain an excessive devotion to Freud, conversely, I would say not only did he get many things wrong but that he was so tragically flawed as a human being that he nearly destroyed his beloved creation because - being so much an insecure Narcissus as an incestuous Oedipus - he could see in it only a reflection of his own image.

(p. 7)

It is the latter aspect of Freud's personality that holds Rudnytsky's attention with unrelenting intensity, however.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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