Read In the Freud Archives by Janet Malcolm A.O. Scott Online


Includes an afterword by the author In the Freud Archives tells the story of an unlikely encounter among three men: K. R. Eissler, the venerable doyen of psychoanalysis; Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, a flamboyant, restless forty-two-year-old Sanskrit scholar turned psychoanalyst turned virulent anti-Freudian; and Peter Swales, a mischievous thirty-five-year-old former assistaIncludes an afterword by the author In the Freud Archives tells the story of an unlikely encounter among three men: K. R. Eissler, the venerable doyen of psychoanalysis; Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, a flamboyant, restless forty-two-year-old Sanskrit scholar turned psychoanalyst turned virulent anti-Freudian; and Peter Swales, a mischievous thirty-five-year-old former assistant to the Rolling Stones and self-taught Freud scholar. At the center of their Oedipal drama are the Sigmund Freud Archives--founded, headed, and jealously guarded by Eissler--whose sealed treasure gleams and beckons to the community of Freud scholarship as if it were the Rhine gold.Janet Malcolm's fascinating book first appeared some twenty years ago, when it was immediately recognized as a rare and remarkable work of nonfiction. A story of infatuation and disappointment, betrayal and revenge, In the Freud Archives is essentially a comedy. But the powerful presence of Freud himself and the harsh bracing air of his ideas about unconscious life hover over the narrative and give it a tragic dimension....

Title : In the Freud Archives
Author :
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ISBN : 9781590170274
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 162 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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In the Freud Archives Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-04-26 12:29

    THE VERY BRAINY PIGLETThis book had as many twists and turns as a very brainy greased piglet and it's hard to write a review as we are talking about Lofty Matters here. But here goes. At the time Sigmund Freud was figuring out his vast theories he was one quack amongst many quacks. His theories were later accepted by many and his fellow quacks were consigned to the bin of history, so that makes him Not A Quack. This is a very important fact. The crux of the argument around which this book pivots so gracefully (speaking as a Freudian ignoramus, I have read maybe two introductions to Freud) is as follows. THE SEDUCTION THEORY (NO PIGLETS INVOLVED) In the beginning Freud treats women suffering from "hysteria". I think we would now call this neurosis. He hypnotises them. No, not with his personal charm, with actual hypnosis. They tell him (under hypnosis) stories of sexual abuse inflicted upon them by their male family members, usually the father. Freud is staggered and comes up with his Seduction Theory. The abuse suffered by these women has caused their hysteria. Sounds logical. But he uses the word seduction when we would use the word abuse or rape, and so right there we have a problem. Seduction? Did he mean any of the implications we now hear in this word? Don't know. So then three years later he changed his mind. For various reasons* he abandoned the Seduction Theory and concluded that all this stuff he was hearing was fantasy, made up by the patient. ("the neurotic symptoms were not related directly to actual events but to wishful fantasies" - SF). So then he came upon his whole Oedipus complex theory &c, and thereby invented psychoanalysis. ANOTHER VERY BRAINY PIGLETTime passes as does Dr Freud, and his ten tons of manuscripts and letters are placed in an archive which becomes known as "the archive". It resides in the Freud Museum in London. In the 1970s along comes the antihero of this book, shagadelic Jeffrey Masson who by enormous zest and charm becomes adopted by the grizzled Dr Eissler as the next Keeper of the Freud Archive. All the older staid analysts in the Freud business are insanely affronted, like as if Mick Jagger just slept with their daughter and she bragged about it. (It's so easy to have fun with the Freudians). But sexy young Masson has his imp of the perverse working day and night for him and whilst on probation for this ultimate job does lectures and interviews and articles in which he denounces Freud - yes, according to Masson the sexual abuse spoken of by Freud's patients was real, not fantasy, and Freud rejected the Seduction Theory simply because it was fatal for psychoanalysis. This accusation is stunning. I am not aware of any great denunciations of Freud by feminists but as soon as modern feminists themselves became aware of the prevalence of sexual abuse of children (suppressed by society for so many years) they should have been all over Freud like a nasty rash exposing him as one of the chief deniers of the unpleasant facts about the abuse of children. Maybe they were, I don't get out much. Anyway, according to Masson, psychoanalysts proceed on the understanding that there is no essential difference between fantasy and reality, that it doesn't really matter if abuse has taken place or not, the point is to get the patient to a place where she is not being crippled by her perceived problem. Not sure if that's correct but there's a whole Recovered Memory/False Memory industry out there willing to argue the point in court. Man. this stuff is thorny! No - hard to keep hold of, like a piglet. No sense in changing metaphors now.THE THIRD AND FINAL PIGLET Unfortunately for me, this book is about the big rift between the various personalities here, Masson, Eissler and another weird character, the former Rolling Stones gofer turned punk historian (seriously) Peter J Swales. Therefore it is a meeting about a meeting, and once I got a third way through this I did not want to bother with these curous people anymore, I wanted to find out what has happened to the Seduction Theory in modern psychothinking.So yes this book is a splendid piece of journalism but by reading it I found it wasn't the book I should have been reading. That's ironic, right?* one reason that in a world of escalating antisemitism, and given that all his patients were Jewish, a theory which flatly stated that there was a lot of sexual abuse going on within families would be just more grist for the Nazi mill.

  • AC
    2019-04-28 08:32

    Surprisingly (given the rather strange and narrow topic), a fascinating book -- not just on Freud, but on academic narcissism and on the psychology of heresy...

  • Michael
    2019-05-02 07:13

    At root, the three insufferable, pedantic Freud scholars at the heart of Janet Malcolm's slim but riveting account engage in a highbrow hissy-fit that differs from a modern-day Twitter feud only a little bit. Rather than snarky 140-character subtweeting, the principals write novella-length letters at each other whose basic message boils down to "You hurt my feelings." This book is less than 160 pages but felt twice as long, so exhausted was I at these insecure windbags.And yet, Malcolm's cool, brutally observant prose makes this otherwise cloistered debate about the true motives of Sigmund Freud's abandonment of his infamous seduction theory -- and who would gain the access to tell that story -- seem like the most consequential thing in the world.This book is also worth reading because it forms a delicious (daresay Freudian?) subtext to readers of her industry classic The Journalist and the Murderer: At the same time Malcolm was documenting the libel trial between convicted triple murderer Jeffrey MacDonald and author Joe McGinniss, Malcolm was being sued by the subject of In the Freud Archives, self-proclaimed "intellectual gigolo" Jeffrey Masson. Like MacDonald with McGinniss, Masson thought Malcolm was "on his side" and would paint a largely sympathetic portrait of him rather than the kind of surgical vivisection she owns a virtual patent on. Keep that in mind next time you take out your dog-eared copy of TJATM.

  • Jimmy
    2019-05-11 06:43

    "You have allowed me, in a show of great confidence, to go through your cupboard."A very interesting book, full of twists and turns and drama-queens masquerading as Freud scholars. Also, it was quite funny in parts. Ultimately I felt like it was maybe too harsh on Masson and not critical enough of Eissler. I found Eissler's nature to protect Freud's legacy very suspect. And I was never convinced that Masson's theories were wrong (at least we can safely say his main point is blatantly correct, now that we have the benefit of time on our side: that Freud's idea that people's psychological illnesses happened only in their heads and are not related in any way to reality is wrong). So what I'm saying is that Masson made some good (and correct!) points, and those points should be evaluated independently of how he treated/manipulated his fellow man. Swales was also an interesting character, uniquely flawed and brilliant. It seems like all involved were cast in a negative light, though Masson gets the brunt of it."His narcissism was wounded when you withdrew your approval" / "Well, my narcissism was wounded when I was proved to be a fool!"

  • DoctorM
    2019-05-20 11:26

    A book that surprised me--- and my first introduction to Janet Malcolm, who became one of my favourite writers. "In the Freud Archives" is a kind of family romance: an account of hopes, histories, filial affections given and betrayed, legacies despoiled, and savagely incestuous in-fighting amongst the intellectual heirs of Freud. Malcolm grew up in the world of 1950s and early '60s psychoanalysis, a world where (remember Woody Allen's early routines?) Freudian theory was taken as a given and educated upper-middle-class New Yorkers took their analysts to be family oracles. Her account of the internecine battles over Freud's legacy is about not just Masson's insistence that Freud deliberately downplayed evidence of actual child abuse because he feared for the social acceptance of his theories, but about class and style and generations as well, about the end of an era where Freud's legacy was administered by Central European disciples of Freud as a kind of remnant of a lost culture and time. "In the Freud Archives" is hilarious, sad, dryly witty, and wonderfully presented. Very much worth reading.

  • Jessica
    2019-05-15 08:31

    Fun. I mean, certainly not of interest to everyone, but if you've ever given half a shit about Freud (which you should) and if the idea of reading about a bunch of lunatic analysts and deranged academic infighting doesn't actively turn you off, I definitely recommend In the Freud Archives. Also, it might enhance enjoyment if you've got ties to Berkeley or Manhattan.... There is an Oscar-winning screenplay waiting to be plucked from these pages. Helen Mirren will get best supporting actress for her role as Anna Freud. I can't wait to see it, so hurry up and adapt! It won't break any box office records, but several notable critics might gush themselves to death.Anyway: note that this book is incredibly short. I'd always pictured it being kind of long and footnotey, but it's basically a long New Yorker article, not a scholarly book. If I'd realized how short and readable this was, I might've read it a long time ago. It's really the most entertaining thing that I've read in awhile.

  • Charles
    2019-05-03 10:13

    One of my favorite books of all time. Janet Malcolm writes with a poison pen, but sees with extreme lucidity. She is a searchlight in a greenhouse, withering whatever catches her attention. Here, she turns her vision on a favorite subject: the world of psychoanalysis. A controversy between a trio of psychoanalysts becomes an exploration of ambition, intellectual obsession, the practice of and institutions around psychoanalysis, the problems of history...The subject of the conflict is the birth of psychoanalytic theory in Vienna. Three men become obsessed with its historical interpretation: heroic origin myth or secret scandal. The battleground is the Freud Archives, the collection of Freud's unpublished works, housed in his last home and carefully guarded by his daughter, Anna Freud. The three men go at each other like three knights each trying to climb braids hanging from a tower.The keyphrase here is: "the truth is better than fiction, it is just harder to write well."

  • Wilde Sky
    2019-05-10 06:39

    An account of how some 'scholars' fell out.I found this book interesting for the first few pages, but overall it was pretty dull.

  • Joanna
    2019-05-20 10:24

    En skikkelig thriller og page-turner som foregår i miljøet rundt de delvis hemmeligholdte Freud-arkivene. Journalistisk sakprosa mesterlig skrevet av Janet Malcolm.

  • Erik Graff
    2019-05-08 05:19

    Were I to rate a book solely in terms of readability and interest, this one would get a five. The topic, J.M. Masson's dispute with the Freud Archives, however, is of less than world-historical importance. Having had some exposure to the psychoanalytic community while studying depth psychology in NYC and having read Masson's book on the affair, Assault on the Truth, I found it fascinating, reading it cover to cover in a single sitting. Now I want to go ahead and read more of Masson and Swales on psychoanalysis.The dispute around which this book centers was primarily caused by Archive Director Masson's claim--to the NY Times!--that Freud had suppressed evidence about the etiological importance of childhood sexual experiences ('abuse') with older relatives, substituting for it his theories of infantile sexuality and Oedipal conflict--in other word, those theories which are arguably central to psychoanalysis.In fact, Freud did move from a more to a less accepting attitude towards analysand's stories of childhood sex abuse at around the end of the nineteenth century. Masson's claim of suppression is exaggerated if taken to mean that Freud consciously distorted evidence--though it may be the case that his growing reluctance to take such memories at face value was overdetermined by personal psychological factors such as his own illicit sexual experiences, the fact that the supposed sexual preditors were often the same men who were paying their daughter's bills and a general social antipathy towards anyone repeating (and believing)_such claims. This notwithstanding, Freud never denied that there were indubitable cases of childhood sex abuse. He just came to believe that they were rare, much rarer than neurotic adults having false memories of such.Masson was right, however, in saying that one's attitude towards infantile sexuality is a lynchpin of psychoanalysis and Malcolm's description of his claims and the psychanalytic community's responses to them is evidence of that.

  • Natalie
    2019-05-21 10:13

    Malcolm states repeatedly, as fact, that pscyhoanalysis has no proven benefits to patients other than providing them immediate / short term relief through voicing their concerns. While I do not agree with this "fact," the book itself was a solid, thoroughly entertaining look behind the scenes of the high-strung scholarly debates around Freud's work and the dubious protection by a few powerful figures, of Freud's legacy. These scholarly moments are contextualized with insight into the psyches of key players, their personalities, and relationships to one another. She brings the long fetishized field of psychoanalysis back to earth, where people bicker, guard their egos, network shamelessly, and where they self-promote at the ivory podium, overstating their own academic import across generations following Freud. She does it with humor. It's the kind of book that you read intensely & methodologically, punctuated sparsely with moments of laughing very much out loud. I love her writing.

  • Kate
    2019-04-29 10:21

    A tale of strange personalities and Oedipal academic in-fighting over the legacy of Freud.Loved it!Especially fascinating to me were the constant parlor intrigues over which researchers got access to what documents. It must have been amazing to explore Anna Freud's cupboard, turning up manuscripts and new revelations. The book is also a window into the world of 1980s academia, where everyone seemed to be writing long, emotional, gossipy letters (which Malcolm somehow got access to for her own research).The book is short and straightforward, but there's a lot going on here.

  • Georgina Pallett
    2019-05-15 09:31

    Highly readable account of the dispute between Eissler and Masson about the Freud Archives. Malcolm's short and shrewd piece is a fascinating example of how archives are not simply preserved and consulted. Rather they are subject to personalities, politics, reputations and relationships. Perhaps what is more intersting is merely an afterword in this book, Malcolm's subsequent decade long libel case after publication. The impact of this on her journalistic writing is surely a significant topic itself.

  • David
    2019-05-17 06:16

    The book covers the debate over what causes neurosis--actual events or how the mind interprets those events. Common sense tells us it's both (a traumatic event doesn't have to damage your psyche, but it definitely increases the odds). Of course, this being a debate, both is not an option. Still, the question is of interest to me, but ultimately not to Malcolm. Most of this slim book (it originated in the New Yorker) is about the "betrayal" of K. R. Eissler, essentially the Pope of the Freudians, by Jeffrey Masson, a young Sanskrit Professor-turned-analyst who eventually reveals himself to be an apostate of the one true faith. It resonates in the way that most magazine fiction does--sort of shallowly--each character a recognizable type. Malcolm even hints at this early on, writing that "The story of Eissler and Anna Freud and Masson, like the story of Freud and Fleiss/Breuer/Jung, is a cautionary tale whose moral seems so obvious that there may be another, more subtle on behind it." I think Malcolm only approaches that subtle moral (maybe that's all we can ever do), but I'd love to see an expanded version of the book rewritten for the 21st Century. Freud's been so long ignored by mainstream culture, which doesn't care what about the cause of pain so long as you can buy pills to numb it, that this book take place in a whole other culture, a vanished world, and something about how that world speaks to our current one might be fascinating.

  • Kevin A.
    2019-04-25 04:24

    Malcolm is much disliked among journalists, mostly for her targeting Joel McGinnis's bestselling book "Fatal Vision," or more accurately McGinnis's relationship with its murderer subject. Her musings on the moral compromises of journalists vis-a-vis their sources did not help her gain sympathetic press when the subject of "In the Freud Archives" sued her for misquoting him and ruining his career. (The case consumed more than a decade, and a mistrial, before she prevailed in 1995.) As someone without a dog in the fight, it seems clear from all available evidence from before and after Malcolm's book appeared that Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson was wont to make all sorts of outrageous statements, and that her characterization was not unfair to him. Perhaps he was foolish to trust her, but that seems a different matter entirely.As to the book itself, originally appearing in the pages of the New Yorker in the early 1980s, it remains a compelling tale of the odd and insular cast of characters gathered around Anna Freud (d. 1982) and her father's archives. The dynamics of the situation should be familiar to anyone familiar with academic turf battles and the like. Malcolm's writing is superb throughout, and it reminds one of the New Yorker at its pre-Tina Brown best.

  • Kyle Adams
    2019-04-30 11:29

    This story has that delightful quality that makes one say, "Thank God this is true!" As the author herself notes, one has the sense of reading a Henry James novel.

  • Gina
    2019-04-27 12:20

    Well, I opened up a book about an academic struggle over who got control of the archives containing Sigmund Freud's papers, and I could hardly put it down. Is that as surprising to you as it is to me? I don't care a whole lot about Freud and petty academic disputes are generally really awful, but this book was just riveting. I absolutely, honestly can't wait to read Malcolm's other books about things I don't really care about either. I can't even remember where I heard her name awhile ago as some master of nonfiction writing, but I wrote it down and finally got around to reading her. Indeed, she is masterful. The book is an expanded New Yorker article, and it does read like a long magazine article. The people are fascinating and Malcolm's telling of the story is perfectly paced and insightful. Also, Freud was an exceedingly strange fellow.

  • Sue
    2019-05-02 10:39

    I was led to this book after reading Janet Malcolm's the journalist and the murderer. Here she explores how the Freudian establishment, including Anna Freud, fierce protector of her father's archives, appointed a young but unsuccessful analyst access to oversee the archives. Thus Jeffrey Masson gains access to previously unpublished material which leads him to write a critique of Freud's foundationary thought on the subconscious and the sexual fantasies of childhood. Masson's main theme is that Freud mistakenly classified sexual abuse of children as mere fantasy and brought the full weight of the Freudian establishment on his head. I found the book absorbing, and it made me turn immediately to Masson's actual book. In a glorious twist, Masson had sued Malcolm over her presentation of his case, reminiscent of the case she had earlier written about in the journalist and the murderer.

  • Joe Rodeck
    2019-04-26 11:35

    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. The Freudian material is actually more interesting than the war between the self-proclaimed expert psychoanalysts. (It's just typical academic professional rivalry.) Granted, the bad guy is an eyebrow-raising borderline psycho.Otherwise, this is amateur writing that could have been helped by a good editor.My problem: She uses the first person omniscient; and she herself is a character in the story. The book is full of dialog and it is hard to know sometimes who is doing the talking. It's distracting and slowing.Anticlimactic ending.

  • Matthew Thompson
    2019-04-30 06:36

    Janet Malcolm says precisely what needs to be said in a voice that is elegant and deadly. The Journalist and the Murderer is, yes, brilliant, even required reading, though there's a perverse corner to my mind that enjoyed this book more. Perhaps it's glimpsing into the obsessive and strange, increasingly irrelevant world of psychoanalysis that appeals to me, or the way Malcolm dismantles Freudian psychology while framing her characters in a lurid Oedipal struggle. Then again, I suppose with anything Malcolm writes, it's about watching the way she connects the dots.

  • Alexis
    2019-05-14 10:42

    What happens when a reporter tries to investigate the case of a defector from the intensely fraternal and self-protective society of analysts? A whole lot of lawsuits, that's what. An absolute delight, particularly if you know anything about psychoanalysis or linguistics. Purported to be a playing out of the Oedipal complex in modern times amongst Freud's followers, this story of jealousy and betrayal can capture anyone's attention. Malcolm herself got sued after her stories ran in The New Yorker. Exquisite journalism, and an absolute must for anyone who's reading Freud.

  • Dan
    2019-05-21 12:18

    "People were talking about inner reality, the unconscious life, and at one point he turned to the group and said, quite angrily, 'Don't you care what really happened? Isn't that what is really important?' At which point the group just sort of backed off and the discussion ended. Because the answer to that, you know, from an analytic point of view is 'No, we're not so concerned with what really happened. We're concerned with how it got worked into the patient's inner life.'" -p.57

  • lixy
    2019-04-26 06:34

    An incredibly story and character study and it reads like a thriller! I recently reread this, and, it made me want to read more by and about the charismatic and arrogant Masson and the other nutjob Swales (i've read much of their writing before, and it's fascinating). Janet Malcolm is a brilliant, dispassionate writer, who illuminates Freudian and post-Freudian theory so you don't have to read it yourself to understand these books.

  • Patrick Ross
    2019-04-30 04:18

    This is one of those cases where I wasn't particularly interested in the topic or the characters going into the read but kept reading because of the mastery of the author. Malcolm is skilled at helping us understand her interview subjects and their strengths and faults simply through her depiction of their own thoughts and actions.

  • Andre
    2019-04-28 04:29

    Juicy indeed. It is, however, asking the reader a lot to write a really long and supposedly supposedly suspenseful story about the craziest of the American Freudians--uh, how can you tell which one it is again? Therefore, I would approach this book more in the spirit of turning over a dead log in the woods and watching the creepy crawlies. For that, it is among the very best. Ever.

  • Dave
    2019-05-10 12:21

    Janet Malcolm is a superb writer. She was recommended to me by a Professor of Psychoanalysis (and let's be honest, that's a fairly reasonable recommendation, wouldn't you say?) - specifically the books 'Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession' and 'In the Freud Archives'. Absolutely brilliant work, both of them. I'd read anything by Janet Malcolm.

  • Zac Farber
    2019-05-02 11:38

    A page-turner about Freud’s discredited seduction theory. The story of an academic spat that reads like a thriller, while getting to the heart of a lot of fascinating issues in psychotherapy. Revolves around an enigmatic, charismatic, possibly sociopathic Sanskrit scholar turned hot-shot analyst who ended up suing Malcolm for libel.

  • Rob
    2019-04-25 12:23

    A surprisingly fun read.For someone who has not read any Freudian literature, the notion that being the keeper of an archive could be such a contentious position may come as news (I wont give any spoilers). For anyone who knows the way Freud feuded with people, it will just seem that they are maintaining an old tradition.

  • Lobstergirl
    2019-05-07 12:36

    I would read anything by Janet Malcolm. There's no one who does what she does better. I will read everything by Janet Malcolm, but I want to pace myself rather than burning through all of it and then being despondent for the rest of my life.

  • Diana
    2019-05-11 07:23

    I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the history of psychoanalysis, for someone who is interested in Freud and history, it was juicy. Malcolm is very unique writer- finds aspects to an issue that has not been explored.