The Mail on Sunday - Event - - BOOKS - Craig Brown is away

them (in fact, as Char­cot’s crit­ics ob­served, these theatri­cal dis­plays in­volved con­sid­er­able com­plic­ity be­tween doc­tor and pa­tient).

When Freud re­turned to Vi­enna, he at­tracted fe­male pa­tients rich both in money and neu­roses (one, the for­mi­da­ble Anna von Lieben, was a lu­cra­tive ‘Haup­tk­li­entin’, or im­por­tant client, for whom he missed a re­union with a friend, openly fear­ing that she might get well in his ab­sence). Mas­sage, hyp­no­sis and drugs all fea­tured in Freud’s treat­ment at the time. In his deal­ings with women, he of­ten emerges in a poor light: his wife Martha was left to look af­ter their six chil­dren while he trav­elled around Europe with her more glam­orous, sin­gle sis­ter Minna, with whom Crews seems cer­tain he had an af­fair. And many of his fe­male clients ap­peared un­happy with the way their ail­ments and his­to­ries were de­ter­minedly shoe-horned into ill-fit­ting sex­ual the­o­ries.

This book is el­e­gantly writ­ten and densely ar­gued, yet it has a whiff of ob­ses­sion that is a lit­tle off­putting. The au­thor, an erst­while ad­mirer of Freud, now presents the case against him with the in­ten­sity of a man bear­ing an arm­ful of bulging files against his ex-wife. While much of the crit­i­cism may be valid, his steer­ing of our in­ter­pre­ta­tion can feel over­bear­ing and un­fair, such as when he queries whether Freud re­ally felt the sting of an­tiSemitism at univer­sity, as Freud said he did. Given what we know of the dark cur­rents in so­ci­ety at the time, on this in­stance I would be in­clined to trust Freud over Crews. Who was this book writ­ten for? The wider rev­er­ence for Freud’s psy­cho­an­a­lytic the­ory has al­ready waned, and he is now seen more as a pioneer who raised valu­able ques­tions than a mas­ter who held all the an­swers. In seek­ing to pul­verise Freud’s char­ac­ter, this will no doubt be a punchy ad­di­tion to the on­go­ing ar­gu­ment over his sig­nif­i­cance among schol­ars. Gen­eral read­ers more in­ter­ested in Freud’s life, how­ever, might be ad­vised to look else­where.

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