The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi

Article excerpt

ERNST FALZEDER AND EVA BRABANT WITH THE COLLABORATION OF PATRIZIA GIAMPIERI-DEUTSCH (EDS.): The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi. Volume 2, pp. 1914-1919. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996, 395 pp., $46.95, ISBN 0-674-17419-4.

This sad, poignant, and gripping collection of the correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi during World War I is as fascinating and revealing a publication as one can imagine. Freud is often criticized for having blundered badly into a boundary crossing, demanding that Ferenczi choose between the two women he "loved" (a mother and her daughter, both of whom were his analysands!) by marrying the mother, who was eight years older than Ferenczi. This occurred at the same time Ferenczi was putatively an analysand of Freud's, having experienced some short periods on the couch representing this "psychoanalysis" that Freud considered "finished, not terminated, but rather broken off because of unfavorable circumstances" (p. 153).

The personalities of the two correspondents emerge dramatically in their letters. Ferenczi is mercurial, unstable, passionate and neurotic. He addresses Freud as "Dear Professor"; Freud in turn writes to him as "Dear Friend." Freud is solid, stable and somewhat gloomy, as well as consistent, mature, and dedicated. His intense internal struggle to maintain a certain analytic distance from Ferenczi is quite manifest, while at the same time his need for the friendship and his appreciation for Ferenczi's warmth and devotion to him is apparent.

All this occurs against the background of being on the losing side in World War I, with the miseries and frustrations that obviously entailed. Freud at one point had three sons in uniform and was very much worried about each of them; Ferenczi's career was continually disrupted by calls to serve as a military physician, a disruption that made it almost impossible for him to dedicate himself to psychoanalysis. He was so determined to continue this dedication that he even attempted to analyze his commanding officer while they were both on horseback, the first instance, as he puts it, of "hippic" psychoanalysis (p. 50).

Given the background of this terrible war it is easier to empathize with the struggles of both Freud and Ferenczi to maintain some kind of stability and to continue a very human relationship that was sometimes one of an analyst and patient and sometimes one of an older with a younger friend. Freud has been much criticized for this vacillation, but without it I am certain that both parties would have suffered greatly, and Ferenczi, the patient, most of all. Probably Freud's most glaring mistake was to write directly to Ferenczi's intended betrothed, conveying an offer of marriage at Ferenczi's request.

In the outstanding introduction to this book by Axel Hoffer, it is suggested that Freud had, at least, an unconscious attraction to Ferenczi's betrothed himself, which might account for Freud's continual pressure on Ferenczi to marry her. This may or may not be so, but it does raise the issue of the status of Martha, Freud's wife. She is rarely referred to in this almost 400 page volume of correspondence, and when she is mentioned, it is in a rather disparaging manner by Freud, characterizing her as essentially a fuss-budget who has little tolerance of discomfort. For example, Freud writes, "I don't dare bring my wife to an unknown second- or third-rate Hungarian spa. …