Freud's Final Thoughts Intriguing Novel Explores His Last Days

By Wolfe, Reviewed Peter | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 13, 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Freud's Final Thoughts Intriguing Novel Explores His Last Days

Wolfe, Reviewed Peter, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


A novel by D.M. Thomas

231 pages, Carroll & Graf, $21

`EATING PAVLOVA" unfolds during the painful last days of Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Suffering from cancer of the jaw, the great psychoanalyst is thinking about his imminent death. But delirium alternates with consciousness, and the morphine he gets to quiet his pain discloses truths that, though more vital than those proffered by factual reality, are also harder to face.

Of the data he shares with us he says, "I scarcely know which is memory and which the recent dream." His mind drifts; free association takes his thoughts from Jewish esoterica to numerology; the threatening symbols of the forest and the railroad train invade his dreams; he sees that various events in his life have dovetailed: He started his self-analysis the same year his father died.

One of the novel's outstanding feats is the way Thomas joins this data. Besides razing barriers imposed by the dream-wake dualism, Freud's semi-stupor denies the passage of years, gender difference and the closed-ended-ness of identity itself. His morphine shots either dredging up or distorting truths he'd normally suppress, he sees his life bereft of guidelines and definitions. His parents' ages when they married, 40 and 19, made his father a grandfather of sorts and gave the sons from Jacob's first marriage a paternal aura.

Such revelations fret him. Like an Old Testament patriarch, the author of the controversial "Moses and Monotheism" finds himself afflicted in his old age. He likens himself to stricken elders like Oedipus and King Lear, while identifying certain family members with figures from the Bible, Shakespeare and Greek myth. This identification sharpens his pain. The same family tie that grows in importance as the novel moves forward reveals itself to be tainted by gender confusion and adultery, incest and suicide; the death of Freud's 20-year-old "golden grandchild" gives him a shock from which he never recovers.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Freud's Final Thoughts Intriguing Novel Explores His Last Days


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?