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Barrett, W.G. (1959). A Hitherto Unremarked Error of Freud's. Psychoanal Q., 28:247-248.

(1959). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 28:247-248

A Hitherto Unremarked Error of Freud's

William G. Barrett, M.D.

Several years ago, while writing about Mark Twain's choice of the name Tom Sawyer for his autobiographical hero, I referred in a footnote to an illogicality in Freud's analysis of Zola's choice of Sandoz as autobiographical hero in his book L'oeuvre. This brief paper is concerned with that reference.

In illustration of condensation in the dream work, Freud, in The Interpretation of Dreams, reports a dream of his own, the first piece of which consists of the neologism 'Autodidasker'. Of this word Freud says it 'could easily be analyzed into "Autor" [author], "Autodidakt" [self-taught] and "Lasker", with which I also associated the name of Lassalle'. Progressing further with his associations he is led to thoughts of his 'still unmarried brother, whose name is Alexander. I now perceived', he says, 'that "Alex", the shortened form of the name … has almost the same sound as an anagram of "Lasker"'. He then realizes that this playing with names and syllables has the further sense of expressing a wish that his brother might have a happy domestic life. This comes to him by way of thoughts of Zola's novel of an artist's life, L'oeuvre, in which 'its author, as is well known, introduced himself and his own domestic happiness as an episode. He appears under the name of "Sandoz".'

At this point Freud conjectures as to how Zola came to use this name for his autobiographical hero, saying, 'If "Zola" is written backwards (the sort of thing children are so fond of doing), we arrive at "Aloz". No doubt this seemed too undisguised.' Freud then continues, 'He therefore replaced "Al", which is the first syllable of "Alexander" by "Sand", which is the third syllable of the same name; and in this way "Sandoz" came into being'.

Upon following Freud's argument closely one realizes that he has given no reason as to why Zola should have had any reason to evolve out of the name 'Alexander' a name to represent himself.

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