FLAWED... BUT WAS HE REALLY
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.