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Vienna Triangle Paperback – January 1, 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In a sometimes uneasy amalgam of psychoanalytic history and feminist fiction, Webster, in her fourth novel (after The Beheading Game, 2006), summons Freud’s inner circle. Young scholar Kate Berg is spending the summer of 1968 in Provincetown with her ailing mother when she has a chance encounter with pioneering analyst Helene Deutsch, one of the last surviving members of Freud’s inner circle. About to begin a dissertation on the early female analysts, Kate is eager to interview Helene about the movement that so powerfully shaped the twentieth century. What she hears about the infidelity, backstabbing, and sheer cruelty of the enlightened ones shocks her, especially after she learns she may be the granddaughter of Victor Tausk, one of Freud’s most brilliant disciples. Meanwhile, like Helene once did, Kate must face down questions about what it means to be a good mother and finding the right balance between work and family. An intriguing if speculative portrait of Freud’s earliest disciples and their tangled history that will be of special interest to psychology students. --Joanne Wilkinson


"Brenda Webster has immersed herself in the lives and the sexual entanglements of an extraordinary set of people, and out of the artifacts they left behind (or that she has fashioned), her characters pose crucial questions about women, war, psychoanalysis—all the unavoidable conflicts of 20th century life among the intelligentsia who shaped their time."  —Rosellen Brown, author, Before and After

"A hypnotic narrative about the grand project of psychoanalysis, now 100 years old, and the coiled tensions between Freud and his gallery of disciples; about the clashing constraints of genius and personality and the intractable legacy of despair. There is so much pure knowledge—knowledge about what it means to be human—embedded in these pages that you are torn between keeping up with the story's barreling pace and wanting to linger with some of the insights that are almost casually delivered, perhaps because they became integral to 20th-century culture. A fascinating exposure of both Freud's Inner Circle and the terra infirma of the human psyche."  —Lynn Stegner, author, Because a Fire Was in My Head

"A riveting read set amidst the student uprisings of the late sixties . . . a dramatic exploration of family romances inside and outside the circle that so famously gathered around the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. The author makes brilliant use of fascinating historical material as her heroine, on a quest for self-discovery, investigates the intrigues that developed among the master's impassioned disciples—and their descendants."  —Sandra M. Gilbert, author, The Mad Woman in the Attic

"In this subtle novel of self-discovery, a young graduate student in the 1960s interviews the aging Helene Deutsch and thereby enters into the world of Victor Tausk, Lou Andreas-Salomé and Sigmund Freud. [Vienna Triangle] takes on the nuclear kernel of psychoanalysis, the Oedipus complex." —Psychoanalysis and History (September 1, 2011)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wings Press; First Edition edition (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0916727505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0916727505
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,747,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brenda Webster was born in New York City, and educated at Swarthmore, Barnard, Columbia, and Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. A top-rated author on Redroom.com, she is a novelist, freelance writer, playwright, critic and translator who splits her time between Berkeley and Rome. For many years she has been President of PEN West American Center.

She is the author of four previous novels, SINS OF THE MOTHERS (Baskerville; 1993), PARADISE FARM (SUNY; 1999), THE BEHEADING GAME (Wings Press; 2006), which was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award, and VIENNA TRIANGLE (Wings Press; 2009). Her memoir, THE LAST GOOD FREUDIAN (Holmes and Meier; 2000) received considerable critical praise. In 2007, the Modern Language Association published Webster's translation (from Italian) of Edith Bruck's Holocaust novel, LETTERA ALLA MADRE.

Her forthcoming play, "The Murder Trial of Sigmund Freud," was inspired by VIENNA TRIANGLE but goes beyond the story of Tausk and Freud to chronicle Freud's relationships with women patients, disciples, and his family. It was written in collaboration with Meridee Stein, who conceived the idea of a play and brought to the table many stimulating ideas and twenty years of experience in the theater.

Additionally, Webster has written two controversial and oft-anthologized critical studies, YEATS: A Psychoanalytic Study (Stanford) and BLAKE'S PROPHETIC PSYCHOLOGY (Macmillan). She translated poetry from the Italian for THE OTHER VOICE (Norton) and THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WOMEN POETS. She is co-editor of HUNGRY FOR LIGHT: The Journal of Ethel Schwabacher (Indiana; 1993), which reveals the life of an abstract expressionist painter, her mother.

More information about the author can be found at BrendaWebster.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This novel is a "must read" for those steeped deeply in psychoanalytic theory and its history. The author takes a feminist angle in weaving her story of interpersonal intrigue among pioneers of psychoanalytic theory in Vienna a century ago. The Great Man himself, Sigmund Freud, doesn't come off particularly well, and overall Brenda Webster demonstrates that even the best, the brightest, and most psychologically well-versed are subject to the most base and petty human feelings and actions.

Brenda Webster is a talented, intellligent writer and the narrative is clear and lucid. However, I ended up feeling that the historical novel may not be her strength. The way the story is set up is kind of clumsy and requests too much of the reader in terms of a willing suspension of disbelief (it's built upon a chance encounter literally on the street in Provincetown, Massachusetts). She also displays a certain carelessness with facts that is unnerving when one is anticipating an historically accurate portrayal of important personalities and events. Example: she breezily mentions the novel's protagonist, Kate, going over the record player and putting on "The Doors,' 'Dance With Me Baby'." That song was recorded first by Paice Ashton Lord in 1976, several years after the Doors ceased to exist. It's not that this factoid is vital to the plot of "Vienna Triangle," but in my experience when an author gets little, incidental facts wrong this casts doubt as to the care with which she assembled the more essential historical points, as well.
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I thoroughly enjoyed Vienna Triangle. I found it a fascinating read and a page turner as well! Webster has portrayed with creativity and authenticity, some of the most compelling historical figures at the heart of the psychoanalytic movement. We engage immediately with these real people, multilayered and complicated as they are in life and love. As the Vienna Triangle unfolds, the portraits of Freud, Viktor Tausk and Helene Deutsch, and also of Freud, Tausk and Lou Andreas-Salome begin to weave a spell. One is sucked into the lives and times of these brilliant but flawed humans, whose passions peak in ways that can both heal and harm. Webster's book gives one pause to reflect on the underpinnings of any "movement," entangled as it inevitably must become, in the fears and rivalries of those who dwell within.

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Weaving together Freud's Vienna aroung the time of the First World War with characters in the 1960s, Brenda Webster has created a most readable and psychologically complex novel. We move back and forth between Freud, his disciple Victor Tausk, the famous seductress Lou Salome -- who is involved with both -- and Helene Deutsch, one of the first woman psychoanalysts who bridges the two eras, and a young woman in the sixties, who is doing research on the period. All the characters are brought to life with all their quirks and talents. One comes away with a real feeling for Freud -- who puts his ambitions above concerns for the people around him -- and the other characters as well. A fine creation and most enjoyable read.

Louis Breger, Ph.D. Author: Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision
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What a wonderful novel! I had complete confidence in the characters, whether created or brought to life. I loved the interplay between Kate and Helene: what each of them said and thought and what each of them read into what the other was saying and how she was saying it. And I found ("der arme") Tausk's diary a tour de force, including his description of Lou Salome and of the sex between them--beautifully and convincingly captured from Tausk's viewpoint--much as I also enjoyed seeing Salome quite differently through Helene's eyes and watching the early analysts analyze one another.

Vienna Triangle is rich and enjoyable in many ways large and small: comparing Freud's reaction to Tausk to that of someone who viscerally can't stand oysters; subtly bringing out the complexities of Helene's love life and married life; and dealing with the ramifications of masochism, aggression, passivity, etc., never didactically, but as the characters concretely experience them.

For me, the novel seamlessly weaves together fiction and reality, so magically that I didn't want to know which was which, at least until I finished the book and only then turned to "The Afterward."
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I was completely engaged by this moving feminist adventure about uncovering family secrets. During the 1960s, several distinctive characters including the young woman Kate struggle with how much or how little they should reveal about themselves, important in the age of Twitter and Facebook. Novelist Brenda Webster delicately pokes around characters' family and professional hurts that may be better left alone. Against this personal backdrop, Vienna Triangle also examines how Freud influenced his contemporaries on personal and professional levels, leading perhaps to the suicide of fellow psychoanalyst and disciple Viktor Tausk. Webster brings Freud, the iconic explorer of the subconscious, down to earth by showing him to be an all-too-human manipulative, threatened secret-keeper in his own life. The creative structure of the novel, particularly the self-examination of Tausk's diary entries, puts the reader through the same process that Kate is going through. I have always admired writers who can accomplish that feat. Vienna Triangle is a great book to wrap your soul and psyche around.
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