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Schulman, M. (1988). Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey (1924-25). Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick (Eds.). New York: Basic Books, 1985, xvi + 360 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(2):348-351.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(2):348-351

Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey (1924-25). Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick (Eds.). New York: Basic Books, 1985, xvi + 360 pp.

Martin Schulman

The Stracheys, James and Alix, occupy a unique position within psychoanalysis. While not particularly esteemed as either theorists or innovative clinicians (although Alix's “The Unconscious Motives of War” is germane in this nuclear age), most of the English speaking world's awareness of the canon of Freud's writings comes from their monumental translation of his works into English: the 24-volume Standard Edition. Even with the recent criticisms by Rieff and Bettleheim as to the “medicalization” of the translation of Freud's work, their translation is still definitive. The Standard Edition is our basic text as analysts. Therefore, a familiarity with the translators is of more than a passing interest.

The Stracheys bridged two worlds, that of Germanic or Central European psychoanalysis and the archetypically British Bloomsbury Circle. One might hypothesize that the dislocation of psychoanalysis from what Kerrigan calls the Geisteswissenschaften, and what Bettleheim sees as its link with the humanities is merely reflective of the elitism of the Bloomsbury crowd, an elitism shared by the Stracheys. As A. D. Moody, a biographer of Virginia Woolf observes in reference to Bloomsbury, they possessed “righteous scorn for the barbarian, philistine, and populace, to which all outsiders were consigned.”

This fascinating volume casts light on several aspects of twentieth-century intellectual thought. The excellent Introduction and Epilogue by the editors give the reader a history of the Stracheys both before and after the 1924-1925 correspondence.

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