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Sachs, H. (1936). Autobiography: By Sigmund Freud. Translated by James Strachey. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1935. 153 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 5:280-283.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:280-283

Autobiography: By Sigmund Freud. Translated by James Strachey. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1935. 153 pp.

Review by:
Hanns Sachs

Whatever a creative man shows of the essence of his personality, is usually not to be found in his autobiography, even if he has written one, but elsewhere. He, who wants to know what has taken place in the inner spheres of Goethe's being and development, will find little help in either Dichtung und Wahrheit or in the Tag- und Jahreshefte. Much more, although not revealed by words, but modelled, you will find in the Fragments of a Great Confession, as the poet himself called his works. It is similar everywhere: nowhere are we further away from the real Anatole France than in La Vie en Fleur, and no autobiography of Proust could ever come up to what he has told us about himself in A la recherche du temps perdu.

What is true of the artist, who includes his inner life in his work, as in former times a living being was immured in the foundations of a building, that does not apply to the scholar, who—wherever may have been his starting point—seeks to capture with his work a part of reality and its laws, stripped of every relationship to his own person. One exception must be allowed in this rule: the man who discovered and explored the unconscious inner life had, necessarily, at first to understand his own unconscious and to give scientific account of the results, before being able to pilot others upon this unknown sea. For that reason some of Freud's works, especially the Interpretation of Dreams reveal the true substance of his personality, and not his Autobiography. In these he certainly had to perform a task different from the artist's, because he faced his problems in making them conscious, not in giving them form. Thus he had to make use of a language of his own invention, of puzzles and allusions, wherever he thought it better to cover up again for strange eyes what had been revealed; for a reader who attempts to bring to light what is hidden of his person and to join together what has been torn apart intentionally, the book can easily become a maze.

Who opens this book in the expectation of something sensational will meet with great disappointment.

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