Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fathoming Freud 9

The Verlag Printing Press:

Freud had his own printing press, at least in so far as it belonged to The International Psychoanalytical Society, to publish his books.This Press was called the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag.  As far as I know this means International Psychoanalytical Press.   Creating the company was made possible by the generous support of Anton von Freund, a Budapest businessman and patient of Freud.  In January 1919 Otto Rank became head of the company, still named the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag (International Psychoanalytical Press). Other participants included Sigmund Freud, Anton von Freund, and Sándor Ferenczi. The goal for the publishing company was to ensure the publication not only of journals and other publications with small circulations but above all of an "official reference" (according to Freud's letter to the presidents of the psychoanalytic societies, Easter 1932), to stand out from the growing literature on pseudo-psychoanalysis. Subjecting psychoanalytic literature to peer evaluation seemed necessary not only in the German-speaking world but also in the English-speaking world, where Ernest Jones, the main man who popularised Freud’s work in England, was active.

Needless to say, the Nazis invaded the Verlag, this Jewish publishing house which published this new revolutionary Jewish science.  The press was at Bergasse 7, just a few doors away from the old man’s apartment.  Martin, his son, got there before the Nazis and did what he could to get rid of as much incriminating material as possible – letters and documents about Freud’s accounts in foreign banks etc – to have such accounts was, of course, illegal and punishable by the Nazis.  A strange and unusual Nazi, called Doctor Anton Sauerwald whom Edmunson describes as “an enigmatic figure” was appointed what they called a “commissioner” for the publishing house called the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag.  Sauerwald was 35 years of age when he was charged with liquidating the Verlag’s assets.  This enigmatic man, became bored one day with his job and began to read Freud’s books and papers, and in them he discovered new and profound things about the human psyche that surprised him a great deal.  As a result, he delayed his liquidation, it would appear for a considerable time.  As to why he did that no one is sure.  Edmundson argues that his delaying surely contributed in part to saving Freud from the concentration camps.

Freud’s Library:

Like Jung, Freud read inveterately, and consequently he had an enormous library.  One could expect no less from such a marvellous scholar and therapist.  At the time of his flight from Vienna his library comprised some 2,500 volumes.  These books were in the various languages in which he was fluent: German, French, English and Italian.  They covered almost every subject, viz., religion, anthropology, archaeology, mythology and history as well as more scientific works on neurology and psychiatry.  The library was also full of literary works, e.g., Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Shakespeare, Milton and Mark Twain. Interestingly Freud called Paradise Lost by Milton one of his favourite books.  Once again Edmundson puts the old man’s obsession with books thus:

Freud read because he wanted to know about every significant kind of human behaviour, collective and individual, past and present; he wanted to experience every kind of art that moved people.  (Ibid., 222)

The last book the old man read before he slipped into death was Balzac’s La peau de chagrin (The Wild Ass’s Skin).  Honoré de Balzac  was born in 1799 and died in 1850.  He was a brilliant French novelist and playwright. The book mentioned above about diminution; a book about life shrinking away into death; a book about literally fading away as a human being; a book about in-built decay.  In this book, the protagonist, called Raphael de Valentin, acquires a wild donkey’s skin that can grant all types of wonderful wishes.  The story is really a variation of the Faustian myth.  However, each time Raphael makes a wish the skin shrinks.  The message here is simple: nothing is ever got for nothing – we have a price to pay for everything!  Here in this re-working of the old myth, Freud could see the battleground between the hungry and rapacious Id and the often baffled ego.  Here is what the WIKI says with respect to this Balzacian novel:

Although the novel uses fantastic elements, its main focus is a realistic portrayal of the excesses of bourgeois materialism. Balzac's renowned attention to detail is used to describe a gambling house, an antique shop, a royal banquet, and other locales. He also includes details from his own life as a struggling writer, placing the main character in a residence similar to the one he occupied at the start of his literary career.

The book's central theme is the conflict between desire and longevity. The magic skin represents the owner's life force, which is depleted through every expression of will, especially when it is employed for the acquisition of power. Ignoring a caution from the shopkeeper who offers the skin to him, the protagonist greedily surrounds himself with wealth, only to find himself miserable and decrepit at the story's end.

La Peau de chagrin firmly established Balzac as a writer of significance in France and abroad. His social circle widened significantly, and he was sought eagerly by publishers for future projects. The book served as the catalyst for a series of letters he exchanged with a Ukrainian baroness named Ewelina Hańska, who later became his wife. It inspired Giselher Klebe's opera Die tödlichen Wünsche and may have influenced Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.  (See this link here: Balzac)

Above Freud's bookshelves at his London home!

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