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In the Freud Archives (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – November 30, 2002
Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This reviewer being a PhD psychologist: Ms. Malcolm covers all the major players in psychoanalysis at the time, and does a splendid job. Read morePublished 20 months ago by M. Mulberg
Janet can write! and her subjects are always fascinating. Am headed for my 4th book by her now, so must go....Published 22 months ago by James A. Gollata
Spicy arguments about Freud's cocaine use, affair with wife's sister, plans to murder a colleague, and why did he abandon the Seduction Theory? keep it interesting. Read morePublished on July 8, 2013 by J. Rodeck
This is a very entertaining book, which details great scholarship by the author and tells the story of one of the many dark episodes of Psychoanalysis. Read morePublished on August 27, 2012 by Luis Manuel Silva
A delicious read: insightful, provocative, and great fun. Malcolm is one of my cultural heroes. The afterword strikes a sour note, but one can understand why.Published on September 3, 2011 by P. Stern
This is my second book by Janet Malcolm. The first, Psychoanalysis: the impossible profession, left me wanting more. I was not at all disappointed with this title. Read morePublished on March 22, 2010 by Harold Goodman
Very well written and captivating non-fiction story about the intrigues around the Sigmund Freud Archives. Read morePublished on July 24, 2008 by MarkusG
This concise primer on Freud's legacy details the evidence behind his theories, profiles three characters who fight over their origins and significance, and... Read more