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American Imago 61.1 (2004) 101-107
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In From Berggasse to Pompeii and Back: Sigmund Freud's Travels in the Past (1989), Christfried Tögel explored the circumstances and geographic extent of Freud's travels, the intellectual relation of his journeys to his interests in archeology and ancient history, and the question of Freud's personal Reisedrang und Reiseangst, that is, his compulsion to travel and the anxiety attendant upon it. Now, with the collaboration of Michael Molnar, Tögel has published a selected chronological transcription of Freud's travel correspondence.
Prior to 1894 almost all of Freud's journeys had been geared to practical purposes rather than tourism, although the experiences were always thickened with pointed observations on cultural or anthropological matters. But the editors here have concentrated on the travels that Freud undertook for pleasure, and made available the letters he sent home to his wife and family from 1895 to 1923. Most, though not all, of these letters were sent from Italy, and as such they belong to the Grand-Tour phenomenon as it was practiced around the turn of the twentieth century.
Tögel has prefaced each set of letters with a brief introductory essay as to the significance of the relevant period in the context of Freud's psychoanalytic research and world historical events. He also provides itineraries and maps of the routes traveled. A chronological overview listing all of the letters and postcards is appended, along with bibliography and index. One hundred fifty-two small (rather poorly printed) black and white illustrations are integrated into the text: these consist of characteristic views and reproductions of works of art, some of which are actually taken from photographs purchased by Freud during the recounted travels. [End Page 101]
As a typical member of the central European middle class, Freud went to Italy in search of natural beauty and cultural enjoyment in the manner of the Grand Tour. Getting a superb meal at an inexpensive trattoria in Perugia was worth writing home about, and some of his few complaints have an undeniably prosaic, almost familiar, ring to them: in Florence (1896) he became blasé to art after an overkill of paintings in the Uffizi and tombs in Santa Croce; and he paid a lot of money—more than he had expected—for just about everything. Florentines on the whole struck him as insolent, even slightly deceitful (63-64). Naples was a living hell and the inhabitants were repulsive, exhibiting a spectacle of medieval ignorance (156-57). Milan was a nasty city, to be gotten out of quickly in favor of a comfortable "ur-deutsch" hotel in Bellagio (200-201). On the positive side, Freud mused over ancient ruins and quoted Goethe lovingly. He tried to buy recherché gifts for his wife and children and antiquities for himself, purchased gloves and ties in Florence, and felt transfigured—almost paralyzed with a sense of beauty and well-being—in the divinely sunlit land of "Apollo and Poseidon" in the south of Italy. All of this was rather typical of Grand-Tour expectations and activities, but book-in-hand, the father of psychoanalysis was an unusually well-educated sightseer. He had studied ancient art and history in his spare time from his years at the gymnasium and university, and eventually assembled a significant library of books on art and archeology in his home. His travels were always well pondered, in advance and in retrospect.
The letters reveal that, for the most part, Freud's travels in the Mediterranean were driven by a search for cultural authenticity and undiluted aesthetic experience. In a card from Tivoli to Martha Freud he stated that "everything here is authentic": mountains, olive groves, cypresses, deep blue sky, figs, peaches, waterfalls, and, not least, the famous Temple of Vesta...