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Colombo, D. (2014). The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love's Prophet by Lawrence J. Friedman Columbia University Press, New York, 2013; 410 pp; $29.95. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(6):1326-1330.

(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(6):1326-1330

The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love's Prophet by Lawrence J. Friedman Columbia University Press, New York, 2013; 410 pp; $29.95

Review by:
Daria Colombo, M.D.

The noted historian Lawrence J. Friedman has produced a work that provides invaluable scholarship about an important figure, Erich Fromm, and serves as an important window into perhaps the only psychoanalyst who not only fully engaged with political activism but succeeded in becoming popular in the lay culture and as a public figure on the national and international stages. Friedman provides an unprecedented account of Fromm's early life and a careful roadmap of the strands of thought - psychoanalytic, political, and religious - that Fromm drew from in his development. He also provides a vivid sense of what Fromm was like as a person - impractically optimistic, intellectually inconsistent, charismatic and fragile all at once. What makes this account so intriguing and relevant is its underscoring of Fromm's unique role as a bridge between the world of psychoanalysis - albeit his own particular translation of it - and a larger world stage. Fromm veered, often unsteadily, between the roles of psychoanalyst, scholar, activist, and self-proclaimed prophet, and while he was at once admirable and flawed in each of these roles, the red thread of his engagement with larger social and political issues clearly endears him to Friedman. Friedman writes in his introduction that: “The spirit of political activism, mine and Fromm's, is quite evident” in this book (p. xxi), and Friedman is at his strongest delineating the ways in which Fromm moved from within various psychoanalytic and political cultures to not only write for, but resonate deeply with, a general readership as he dealt with pressing social issues.

Friedman reminds us of the extraordinary reach of Fromm's works: Escape from Freedom sold 5 million copies and was translated into 28 languages (p. xxii). The Art of Loving (1956) had mass market success, selling more than 25 million copies and seeing translation into 32 languages (p. xii). With the publication of To Have or to Be? in 1976, Fromm “reached guru status” (p. 327).

[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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