Not so Much a Treatment, More a Way of Life

The Wolf-Man

by the Wolf-Man, edited by Muriel Gardiner, with a Foreword by Anna Freud
Basic Books, 370 pp., $10.00

In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath,” observed Dr. Johnson; nor, I suppose, is he when writing blurbs, introductions, and forewords, particularly when, as in the present case, the book has been composed in a spirit of reverence. Anyone cursorily inspecting The Wolf-Man by the Wolf-Man would assume that it consisted of an autobiography of an ex-patient of Freud’s accompanied by a complementary case history by Freud; and, furthermore, that the autobiographical part would be illuminated by the insights which its author had gained while being analyzed.

The blurb refers to Freud’s contribution as a “complete case history” and, quoting the editor’s Introduction and Anna Freud’s Foreword, asserts that “there is no other book which gives us the human story of a struggling, passionate individual, seen from his own point of view and from that of the founder of psychoanalysis” and that it affords “a unique opportunity to witness a human being’s inner and outer life unfold before our eyes from childhood to old age.” Readers of the book will, however, discover that none of these statements is strictly true. The Wolf-Man is, nonetheless, of considerable interest.

In fact The Wolf-Man by the Wolf-Man is a compilation of eight discrete items, written at various dates between 1914 and 1968, involving not two but four authors (the Wolf-Man himself and three analysts, Freud, Ruth Mack Brunswick, and the “editor,” Muriel Gardiner). Although it is indeed true that the Wolf-Man is seen from two different points of view, his own and that of the three analysts who have written about him, there is a curious disharmony between the two points of view which makes it impossible to understand the connection between the Wolf-Man’s life as he sees it and the “inner life” attributed to him by the analysts. (In addition to his analyses by Freud and Ruth Mack Brunswick and his friendship with Muriel Gardiner, the Wolf-Man has had psychotherapy from three other analysts during the course of his life.)

But who is this mysterious Wolf-Man? He is an émigré Russian aristocrat, the son of a prominent liberal politician, who is now a widower aged eighty-four living in Vienna. In 1910, when aged twenty-three, he consulted Freud, who analyzed him until 1914, when he returned to Russia apparently cured of a severe and complex neurosis after what in those days was a very long analysis. In 1919 he reappeared in Vienna, an impoverished émigré from the Soviet Union, and had a further few months’ analysis from Freud, who treated him free and in addition made an annual collection on his behalf from within psychoanalytic circles—and continued to do so for six years, after his analysis was over and after he had gotten a job in an insurance company.

In 1926-7 he had a further five months’ analysis from Ruth Mack Brunswick, again free, and was analyzed by her again “somewhat irregularly over a period of several years,” starting in 1929. He was widowed …

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