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Lehmann, H. (1970). Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann. Psychoanal Q., 39:198-214.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 39:198-214

Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann

Herbert Lehmann, M.D.

In the chronicle of Freud's encounters with contemporary men of literature an important chapter will have to be devoted to Thomas Mann. When I scanned the potential material for that particular chapter, my attention was caught by Freud's confession of an act of forgetting which occurred in reaction to Mann at the height of their relationship. What might have remained for me a catalogue of letters, meetings, and respectful utterances became a chance of discovering what feelings these two men might have had toward each other.

Freud refers to the parapraxis in the last paragraph of a remarkable letter. He wrote it in November of 1936, six months after Mann read to him his famous address, Freud and the Future, on the occasion of Freud's eightieth birthday and after Mann had sent him his newly published volume in the Joseph series, Joseph in Egypt. Freud writes:

The effect of this story [Joseph in Egypt] combined with the idea of the 'lived vita' in your lecture and the mythological prototype has started within me a trend of thought… I keep wondering if there isn't a figure in history for whom the life of Joseph was a mythical prototype, allowing us to detect the phantasy of Joseph as the secret daemonic motor behind the scenes of his complex life. I am thinking of Napoleon I (3p. 432).

Freud then goes on to develop the thesis that the name of Napoleon's eldest brother, Joseph, 'was fateful for him'. On this supposition, Freud constructs a compellingly plausible interpretation of the Emperor's destiny. It explains Napoleon's relationship to Josephine, his expedition to Egypt, his taking care of his brothers by making them kings and princes.

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