As Ernest Jones has noted, Freud's more than passable knowledge of Spanish derived partly from his association with his school friend Eduard Silberstein, with
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whom he founded the humorous "Academia Castellana." Writing to Freud's fiancée Martha Bernays in 1884, Silberstein recalled from their Spanish primer a dialogue from Cervantes, the significance of which, Riley argues, has bearing on the methods of psychoanalysis.
The specific tale from Cervantes, "Coloquio de los perros" ("The Dogs' Dialogue"), concerns two dogs named Berganza and Cipión, whose names Freud and Silberstein came to use in their letters to each other. In the story, the two dogs lie outside a hospital as Berganza tells his life story to Cipión, who merely listens and comments—a paradigm of the patient and the analyst. The list of Berganza's owners includes a witch who tells him he was born a human twin to another witch—a bestial version of Freud's family romance, suggesting as well Otto Rank's work on doubles.
"Coloquio de los perros" is the last of twelve stories in Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Stories), published in 1613. As it happens, the story right before it, "El casamiento engañoso" ("The Deceitful Marriage"), is linked to the last tale through one of Cervantes's ingenious narrative frames. Recuperating from venereal disease after leaving the hospital, the soldier Campuzano meets a scholarly friend of his named Peralta, to whom he tells the story of his failed marriage. During his account—an unburdening parallel to the canine confession—he also claims to have heard two hospital guard dogs conversing by his bedside, and when Peralta expresses disbelief, he hands Peralta a manuscript he made of the conversation. The manuscript turns out to be "Coloquio de los perros," which Peralta reads as Campuzano sleeps. The two tales taken together resemble the interpretation of a dream, though, as Riley observes, "In psychoanalysis, interpretation is a means to an end. In literature it is usually an end in itself." Those interested in pursing the analysis should see Cervantes's Exemplary Stories.
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Galef, D. (1994). Literature. Psychoanal. Q., 63:169-170