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American Imago 62.4 (2006) 493-498
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Although Alan Dundes's presentation starts with an error—Vienna was never "beloved" (vii) by Freud, who hated the city—this book undoubtedly represents a major discovery in the history of psychoanalysis. Recollecting Freud is the English translation of Isidor Sadger's Sigmund Freud: Persönliche Erinnerungen, published in 1929. Yet a rumor perpetuated the idea that the work, which had scandalized the members of Freud's circle, especially Ernest Jones, was never published. The manuscript is believed to have been lost. Unfortunately, Dundes fails to make it clear how, after this seventy-year hiatus, Sadger's title appeared in his "data base" (xlii). One would like to know who had the temerity to refer to such an ostracized text. Since no copies were available for borrowing from any European libraries, Dundes eventually tracked it down in the library of a Japanese university.
As Dundes recounts in his introduction, Isidor Sadger was born in Galicia in 1867, completed his medical training in Vienna in 1891, and died in 1942 in a concentration camp. Although he was much less famous than Jung, Adler, or even Stekel, Sadger pioneered in introducing the concept of narcissism into psychoanalysis. We also owe to Sadger the discovery of the importance of the relationship to the mother in the etiology of male homosexuality. Without adequately dwelling on these issues, Dundes tries to understand Sadger through Freud's correspondence and through the testimonials of those who participated in the early meetings of the Wednesday evening circle. [End Page 493]
Almost everyone who came into contact with Sadger, from Lou Andreas-Salomé to Ernest Jones and not excluding Ferenczi, followed Freud's lead by avowing an antipathy not simply to Sadger's views but also to his person. He was widely criticized for being too systematic, outrageous, subjugated by the sexual, lacking in civility, and a misogynist. Dundes thus logically proposes the hypothesis that Sadger's portrait of Freud might well have been influenced by the ill treatment he had been made to endure for years.
At the beginning of his book, Sadger asserts that Freud was a "genius" (8), a declaration that he does not fail to repeat. Freud avoided the usual "psychiatric gibberish" (11) and manifested "an unrelentingly sharp logic" (13) in the presentation of his ideas. What is more, Freud knew how to prevent others from feeling violated by the exposure to his new way of thinking and to make them believe that they could have arrived at the same insights themselves. Indeed, Freud had an "incredible love of truth" (32), just as he was "incredibly generous . . . with new ideas" (37). Yet all these "incredible" virtues of Freud's do not fail to turn into their exact opposites from one page to the next. He loved the truth, but could also be "blind" and "forced everyone to see . . . with the same blindness" (57). His generosity soon became crushing; indeed, using his sharpness of mind, he could "destroy and grind someone into the ground" (35) with a sentence. He wanted to control everything, and left "just the feeble execution" (38) of his grand design to others.
What else? "Freud was not free of envy of his most talented disciples, if they even once found something new" (55), and he gave away his best ideas to those students who "lived far away and who willingly acquiesced to everything" (34). Thus, though Freud was a genius, he was at heart an "awful sadist" (31), a "terrible sadist" (35), who could "let loose his sadism" (43) with the aim of fostering divisions and strengthening his own grip on power, tactics that Sadger finds reminiscent of "another charmer and awful sadist, namely Otto von Bismarck" (51).
Why did Sadger write this book? In 1929, he was sixty-two, and thus no longer a young man. Five years earlier, his nephew, Fritz Wittels, had published Sigmund Freud: His Personality, His Teaching, and...