Monday, May 04, 2009

Fathoming Freud 6



Freud and Dogs

One thing Freud had in common with Hitler was his love of dogs.  We see pictures of Hitler with his beloved German Shepherd.  Freud’s favourite dogs were chows.  This is a breed of dog that was first developed in Mongolia about 4,000 years ago and was later introduced into China where it is referred to as Songshi Quan which literally means "puffy-lion dog."  This love for chows he shared with his great friend and supporter, also a famous psychoanalyst, Princess Marie Bonaparte (1882-1962) whose life I find fascinating.  Her’s is a life I must research in some detail because of its uniqueness, eccentricity and indeed courage.   It is also important to point out that it was her wealth contributed to the popularity of psychoanalysis, and enabled Freud's escape from Austria.  It was she who lay in vigil on the stairs outside Freud’s apartment immediately before the family’s final flight from Vienna in case the Nazis might come to snatch him away to a concentration camp.  No ordinary lass, you will agree!

As Freud awaited his eventual flight from the Nazis in Vienna he was writing his famous Moses book, of which I shall write later in these posts.  However, he and his daughter were also engaged in a task very close to their hearts, namely translating Princess Marie Bonaparte’s book about her dog, also a chow.  The three of them were dog lovers, especially of the chow variety.  The book, which the princess had published in 1937 was called Topsy, chow-chow au poil d’or which translates roughly as Topsy, the golden-haired chow.  The translation, of course, was from French into German.

Edmundson lists Freud’s chows as: Lun-Yug in 1928 and Jo-Fi when the first was killed by a train quite soon after acquisition. “Jo-Fi was Freud’s constant companion, sitting at the foot of his consultation couch while analysis was in session… Sometimes Jo-Fi received more attention than the patient.” (The Death of Sigmund Freud, 91)   It is also interesting to note that one of his favourite philosophers, Schopenhauer, was also a lover of dogs.  When Jo-Fi died after some seven years from a heart attack, Freud was crushed.  However, he immediately purchased another dog the following day and called her Lun. 

Edmundson, moreover, informs us insightfully:

About dogs, Freud had a very odd belief: he thought that they were creatures whose natures were entirely pure – untouched by civilization… ‘the unbearable conflicts of civilization..’ (ibid., 92)

Freud was wont to write pithy phrases in his diary throughout his life.  Of the Anschluss he simply wrote “Finis Austria.”  On April 9th, 1938 he wrote simply: “Topsy translation finished.”  The Freudian oeuvre or corpus of works in psychoanalysis is singularly large, and yet he could find time for his consultations and indeed his interest in dogs.   One of the first things the ailing and dying Freud was to do upon reaching London was to go off and visit his chow, Lun, who had been taken from Dover for quarantine.  Indeed, I don’t believe Freud left his new house for anything or anyone else except to visit his beloved chow.

Just weeks before his death Freud’s cancerous jaw was a mess and a mass of decay and the odour therefrom sickening.  Now, even his beloved dog, Lun, who had by now been released from quarantine, cowered on the far side of the room because of the smell of the decomposition from her master’s rotting jaw. To finish this post on dogs and Freud’s obsession with them, let me return to the words of Mark Edmundson:

But on the matter of dogs, Freud was consistently starry-eyed.  He could imagine pure love flowing from his dogs to him – and maybe sometimes from himself back to them. Now this pleasure too was gone [he was lying on his deathbed].  Freud’s life was becoming, what he called in a letter to Princess Bonaparte, “a small island of pain floating on an ocean of indifference.” (ibid., 214)



Above, I have uploaded a picture of Freud's favourite breed of dog, the Chow.

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