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The Battered, Triumphant Sage

Freud and His Followers

by Paul Roazen
Knopf, 599 pp., $12.95

Social Amnesia

by Russell Jacoby
Beacon, 191 pp., $8.95

What it Did






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The only memorable scene in HD’s otherwise muzzy, self-absorbed memoirs of the Professor, mainly taken from two series of meetings she had with him in 1933-1934 when Freud was seventy-seven, occurs during an analytic session. Evidently the deeper fish weren’t rising and HD was simply dimpling the surface with her toes. Suddenly Freud begins to beat on the headboard of the horsehair sofa she’d been reclining and reminiscing on till his fist roused her. “The trouble is—I am an old man—you do not think it worth your while to love me.”

As Roazen observes, Freud was fifty years old before any of his famous followers came to court. He knew what the lure of maturity was, the accomplishment of a completed self and the magic of a man who has been vouchsafed revelations, not to mention the attraction, too, of someone with livelihoods for sale. But a cancerous old codge—could a libidinous transference be effected for such a precariously pale, jaw-gnawed sage? And can we achieve it today with these spousely familiar texts? how shall they startle our understanding with more than the hammer of an old man’s rage?

Paul Roazen’s present book on Freud is clearly the result of research he undertook for Brother Animal, a fuller and less cautious description of Freud’s friendship and falling-out with Victor Tausk than appears in Freud and His Followers.1 The earlier study is an extended account of this discipleship, and Tausk’s suicide in 1919 forms the dramatic center of a kind of biographical whodunit. Roazen was rightly excited by the material his researches began to unearth and the “new not so nice” Freud who began to appear out of the dark fog of flattery and reticence which had always shielded him before—hulking a little, I’m afraid, like a menacing figure in another bad Hitchcock film. Freud had warts. Was he the whole toad?

The man defined by these volumes is said to be a warm and courageous genius, an inspiring teacher, an amusing storyteller and understanding companion, a source of wisdom and example of pure dedication; but he is shown to be aloof, vain, proud, tyrannical, unforgiving and vindictive, suspicious, jealous—in short, a quite unpleasant neurotic. In that difference lies the bias of both books.

Brother Animal is a disturbing work, not because it is critical of Freud while pretending, as Freud and His Followers also does, to be “objective,” or because it absurdly overvalues Tausk’s talent, or even because the conclusion we are asked to come to is that Freud was a seriously responsible factor in Tausk’s suicide (a charge, to this reader, more than totally unproved), but because of its very questionable biographical methods. Roazen’s use of quotation, the beautiful placement of his omissions, the implicit and often fluctuating judgments, his style (which might be described as a conscious stream of insinuation and unscrupulous contrivance), and his almost total avoidance of substantive issues, were together so outrageous that they provoked K.R. Eissler to a book-length refutation.2

Roazen’s treatment of Lou Andreas-Salomé is typical, and a few passages can provide a good example of the differences between the two books.

Brother Animal

Lou fits the genre of women who have a knack of collecting great men. Madame de Staël in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and Alma Mahler in the 20th illustrate the type. In Lou’s case beauty was not her main attraction. Whatever her earlier good looks, she now had to rely on her psychological resources to arouse the attention of any potential conquests. [P. 33]

Freud and His Followers

Lou was of the genre of women who have a knack for collecting great men. Whatever her earlier good looks, she now had to rely on her psychological resources to arouse the attention of any potential conquests. [P. 314]

Eissler points out quite correctly that Alma Mahler and Madame de Staël are not parallel cases; that neither Nietzsche nor Rilke was famous when she was intimate with them; that she in fact preferred Nietzsche’s friend Rée; that in Vienna she was most attracted to Richard Beer-Hofmann (who?) and that it was perfectly reasonable for a woman “whose mind was equal to that of the greatest of her times” to find pleasure in the company of the gifted. Victor Tausk, incidentally, is still not famous.

Roazen weaves passages from Brother Animal in and out of Freud and His Followers (like the first sentence starred below, which also strangely happens to be true), dropping some of his more offensive remarks, but certainly not all of them.

Brother Animal

Although Lou was useful to her line of great men precisely because she could identify with that most precious portion of themselves so in need of support, as men fell in love with her they eventually discovered that she had not truly given of herself. She had mirrored them, had helped their creative need, but at bottom Lou withheld herself as a person. Her great men all needed her, but each of her lovers ultimately realized how she had eluded him. [P. 34]

Freud and His Followers

  • Vibrantly responsive to ideas, she possessed an extraordinary flair for identifying with men, and especially with that creative part of them most subject to inner uncertainties.* [Brother Animal, p. 33] But as men fell in love with her they eventually discovered that she had not truly given of herself. She had mirrored them, had helped their creative need, but had withheld herself as a person. They all needed her, but ultimately they realized that she had eluded them. [Pp. 314-315]

That she withheld herself is so palpably untrue in the case of Rilke, for example, with whom she remained in long, magnificent, and truly helpful correspondence until his death, that one wonders at the cause of this gratuitous malice.

Brother Animal

For the year 1912-13, however, Freud, Lou, and Tausk established a triangle which had advantages for each. Lou had recurrently had two men in her life simultaneously. She had married Friedrich Carl Andreas after he had threatened to kill himself otherwise; but she slept only with other men. Before Lou was married she had used another man against Nietzsche. (Nietzsche’s sister considered her a devil.) Lou, Rilke, and Andreas traveled to Russia as a threesome. And now she had a physical relation with Tausk, alongside her deep involvement with Freud.

For Freud the arrangement had frustrations as well as satisfactions. He was jealous of Tausk’s opportunity to have an affair with Lou. Tausk was much younger, more virile, and altogether a larger man physically…. On the other hand, Lou could give Freud information about Tausk. She could help keep this potentially troublesome student under control. [Pp. 45-46]

Freud and His Followers

For the period 1912-13 Freud, Lou, and Tausk established a triangle which had advantages for each. Lou often had had two men in her life simultaneously. For Freud the arrangement had frustrations as well as satisfactions. He was jealous of Tausk’s opportunity to have an affair with Lou. Tausk was younger, more virile, and altogether a larger man physically. On the other hand, Lou could give Freud information about Tausk, to help keep this potentially troublesome student under control.For both men she was a buffer. [P. 315]

That Freud was jealous of Tausk’s physical intimacy with Lou is not supported by any evidence; that he used that intimacy to control Tausk (the Machiavellian suggestion) is not supported by any evidence; that Lou used Rée against Nietzsche is a wholly unfair description of that complex affair; the reference to Nietzsche’s sister is especially sly since she was notoriously jealous and unreliable. One may say: small matters, minor details. But they multiply. They comprise a whole forest of whispers in a slanderous wind.3 In Brother Animal Lou is described as fitting perfectly into a passive role, and in both books Roazen writes that

She could flatter him and still believe everything she said. A woman can more easily dissociate her sense of self from her professional work; so to give Freud what he wanted in no way compromised her integrity. [FF, p. 315, BA p. 48]

In chapter 9 of the Followers, which is entitled “The Women,” and devoted to Brunswick, Deutsch, Klein, and Anna Freud, the condescension evident in the passage I’ve just quoted becomes epidemic.

The characterization of Lou Salomé as passive is, of course, ludicrous. For a while friends referred to Rilke as the Lou-man; the poet Gerhart Hauptmann wryly remarked that he was too stupid for Lou; she rejected her husband’s sexuality, held Rée at arm’s length, dispensed wisdom like a Lama, shocked society everywhere with her forwardness. Finally, it is she who kneels in the cart and cracks the whip while Rée and Nietzsche pretend to pull it in that joking Lucerne photograph. What is apparently unforgivable about Lou is that as a woman, in all her relationships, she resolutely remained her own man.

Much of the new material which makes Freud and His Followers such an interesting book comes from interviews with people who knew Freud personally, either as patient or pupil, and from those others who closely participated in the movement or were long-standing students of it. Roazen describes in detail his interview techniques, and we learn from this that he did not use a tape recorder but began from prepared questions, took notes, allowed the interview to develop spontaneously when that seemed advisable, and reconstructed the conversation later. Sometimes it was not possible to take any notes at all. While there were obvious and good reasons for adopting the procedures he did, what Roazen was in fact collecting was a mass of material, mostly gossip and reminiscence, colored by personality, dimmed by time, fabricated by weakness and shaped by self-interest, which he then had not only to remember and accurately record himself, but cross-check and evaluate against solider documentation and that less steady but always weighty body of received opinion.

He was fishing, moreover, in a sea of serpents. There were questions of loyalty and disloyalty, rectitude and competence, originality and theft; there were profound jealousies, clever concealments, and human imbroglios like hopeless snags of hair. The truth of a theory is the last thing to matter when ideas become traits of character. Gossip engulfs everything. Did indeed Freud emerge from his consulting room with a visible erection? What did Ferenczi’s kisses and cuddles come to? Did James J. Putnam fix the seat on his daughter’s bicycle lest she be unduly stimulated? Did Tausk once test a woman’s genitals for sensation with a galvanic rod?

Analysts had affairs with patients or with one another. One of Freud’s sons took up with a patient of his father’s. Confidences were breached. Since every prospective analyst had to be analyzed, too much became known about too many, daisy chains of secrets—of private mouth put to confidential ear, of understanding stimulated to uneasiness, of fear brought on to brotherly betrayal—soon were formed. Out of this even the fairest and most dispassionate mind must come covered with some slime, some self-serving subjectivity, the button of a weakness pressed once too often, perhaps outraged by an attitude or alliance, comforted by a kind concealment close to home.

  1. 1

    In addition to these, and Freud: Political and Social Thought (Knopf, 1968), Roazen has edited a collection of essays on Freud in the Makers of Modern Social Science series for Prentice-Hall, 1973. It consists mainly of essays from psychiatric journals or chapters reprinted from well-known books and contains important pieces by Erikson, Fromm, Marcuse, Adorno, and Sapir, among others.

  2. 2

    Talent and Genius (Quadrangle, 1971). Although Roazen knows of this book and Eissler’s work in general, Freud and His Followers is absolutely silent about it. Eissler himself is too angry, too strident, too concerned to protect the Professor at every point.

  3. 3

    Roazen cites Rudolph Binion’s Frau Lou (Princeton, 1968; paper, 1974), but he selects from it very carefully. H.F. Peters’s biography, My Sister, My Spouse (Norton, 1963; paper, 1974), is much more appreciative of Lou and certainly more readable than Binion, who is, like Roazen, “correcting the record,” but it is also much less secure concerning the facts. For a brief, fair account of Lou’s relationship with Nietzsche, see Walter Kaufmann’s Nietzsche, third edition (Princeton, 1969). At least some of Lou’s lurid sexual past is overdrawn. It seems that she remained a virgin for many years after her involvement with Rée and Nietzsche.

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