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In the Freud Archives (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – November 30, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Janet Malcolm is the author of numerous books, including The Silent Woman, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession, and In the Freud Archives. She has been writing for the New Yorker since 1963, including nearly ten years writing "About the House," a column on interiors and design. Janet lives in New York.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (November 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159017027X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170274
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Malcolm's masterly study of the uproar over Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's fight with the trustees of the Freud Archives has been out of print for years, despite the famous controversy (and multiple libel suits) the book itself occasioned upon its publication. It has been deservedly been brought back into print into this nifty little edition by the NYRB Press, featuring on its cover one of Malcolm's own fascinating collage pieces. Like all of Janet Malcolm's later work, it centers around fierce intellectual debates concerning the ownership and representation of ideas, and the enormous cruelties academics and writers are willing to wage upon one another in the name of "truth." Also, like all her subsequent work, IN THE FREUD ARCHIVES centers upon the inherent problems of bias in narrative, and how aggrieved individuals often betray themselves (as in psychoanalysis) when they most want to win an audience's confidence. Although Masson sued Malcolm (ultimately unsuccessfully) for his portrayal in this study, he might even be thankful that she has immortalized him (more than his own writings ever may) as a fantastic and mercurial character.
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By A Customer on November 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Janet Malcolm's study of the controversy over the Freud Archives is one of the finest pieces of non-fiction of the last twenty years. It deals with the appointment of Jeffrey Masson as head of the Freud Archives, his subsequent discovery and publication of much of Freud's correspondence, and his claims that Freud's abandonment of the "seduction theory" invalidates the entire discipline of psychoanalysis - and the bomb this planted beneath the reputation of Freud and the field he pioneered.
The story has been knocking about ever since. Briefly, Freud had at first believed his patients' claims that they had been sexually abused in childhood. This is the "seduction theory" of neurosis - that neuroses derive from actual physical abuse. After a while, as these claims were made by more and more patients, he (rightly or wrongly) came to believe that they couldn't all be true, and developed the theory of the Oedipus complex - that we are all more or less neurotic, as a result of unavoidable psychological events that are part of everyone's early childhood. Psychoanalysis at once became immeasurably more complex, less ambitious and more speculative.
When Jeffrey Masson, a former Sanskrit scholar who had trained as an analyst but whose instincts were those of a scholar, came across the story of how Freud had changed his mind, he immediately started to claim that this was pretty much the end of psychoanalysis. Whether it is or not is up for the reader to decide. What's most riveting about this book is Masson himself.
I don't want to say anything outright derogatory about Masson, as he has a taste for litigation - he sued Malcolm about the book, and carried the case on for 11 years until he eventually lost.
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Format: Paperback
Though under 150 pages in length, In the Freud Archives is so complex that, to serve the potential purchaser of this book, I want to confine my comments to the writer's craft, that is, to how Janet Malcolm constructed her tale, and to how her book and its topic of the Sigmund Freud legacy might have changed since the book was first published in 1984.

There is clearly a central "character," a protagonist, in this book: Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. The opening pages of In the Freud Archives recount Masson's personal charm and dazzling intellect as he begins to appear at psychoanalytic conferences (which lead to his meeting with the most important of the four or five other "characters," Kurt Eissler, the Secretary or head of the Freud Archives). Note that throughout the book, author Malcolm gives more pages to Masson than to anyone else, the final pages of the book are Masson's words, and he is the only person Malcolm shows in the intimacy of his home with his family. Masson seems to be the perfect "main character" because of his internal conflicts (which he makes visible, as Malcolm recounts them). Very quickly, we find out that Masson's words and actions are uncivil, bad-tempered, and generally destructive of friendships; though other people in the book are also similarly flawed, they seem not to have redeeming qualities (as he does).

As the narrative progresses, its as though Malcolm realizes that Masson's situation makes the most compelling narrative and she wanted to record moments which "save" him; in other words, it seems to me that there is little to redeem Eissler, Peter Swales, or Anna Freud, but Malcolm gives Masson some moments of truth.
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Format: Paperback
Wow. Generally I don't bother to review titles that have already been lauded or panned, but I enjoyed this recently beyond all measure. Originally a series of articles in the New Yorker, I came upon it in book form, strikingly after being dissapointed in a book I read by Masson, one of the protagonists in this small morality tale. Jeffrey ends up being eviscerated by his own words as this small fable of misplaced trust and ego unfolds. Malcolm is the sly and small narrator that undoes him by lending an ear, and in the meantime the Freud legacy is both exposed and intelligently defended. What makes this book 5 instead of 4 stars are the slight brilliant insights of Malcolm herself that occasionally highlight the factual action. The fact that this is journalism that provides wisdom is what brings it up to literatures doorstep. Brilliant.
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