ONE MAN AND HIS DREAMS ; It Was the Biggest Non-Fiction Best-Seller of the 20th Century. "The Interpretation of Dreams" Still Looms Large over Western Aware of Its Presence. John Forrester Celebrates the Irresistible; and, 100 Years after Its Publication, Culture - Even If We Are Not Always Magic of Sigmund Freud's Masterpiece
Forrester, John, The Independent (London, England)
Sigmund Freud's great work, The Interpretation of Dreams, was published a century ago. "It contains," wrote its author in the preface he added in 1931, "the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime." No other book of Freud's matches The Interpretation of Dreams for its ambitions, its effect on readers, its idiosyncratic style and its ammunition for his critics. It is a scientific treatise, an intimate diary, a confession, the key to dreams, a fantasy journey, an initiatory quest, an essay on the human condition and, what is more, a vast allegorical fresco of the unconscious.
The ripples from its initially quiet entrance into Western culture have continued to spread, though more visibly in some places and times than in others. Britain, one of the great centres of psychoanalysis in the early 1920s, lost its impetus by the 1930s (when the Soviets killed off psychoanalysis in Russia and Hitler and Franco did likewise in Germany and Spain respectively). But a look around London at the moment suggests that a British psychoanalytic renaissance may be imminent - thanks to the continuing force of that 100-year-old book.
All this month, Freud enthusiasts around the capital are celebrating Freud's contribution to the arts. Principal sponsor is the Austrian Cultural Institute, celebrating not only the Germanic culture of psychoanalysis - of necessity largely a pre-War memory - but the influence of psychoanalysis in Britain and America as well. Highlights include a scintillating series of films, by directors such as Dreyer, Bunuel, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Polanski, Gilliam and Siodmak, in a programme entitled "Screen Dreams", at the Riverside Studios Cinema. In the visual arts, the artist Susan Hiller, who has had a long attachment to Freud's work - including her series, now in the Tate Modern, From the Freud Museum - has selected works for "Dream Machines", a touring exhibition on at the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, from 8 July-20 August. These works range from Kurt Schwitters's incantatory poems of the 1920s to contemporary video art by the Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas, whose theme is altered states of consciousness and the transformative power of art.
Other attractions include conferences (eg, "Freud: Dreaming, Creativity and Therapy", at the University of London Union, 24-26 May). There are also classical music events - notably the "Sound of Dreams" season of concerts at the Victoria & Albert Museum - with at least one psychoanalytic dance event (Dream, Dreamt... Still Dreaming!, a collaboration between British and Austrian artists exploring the dream world of Sigmund Freud) climaxing this weekend at Sadler's Wells.
Above all, the next few months are seeing a major resurgence in Freudian literature. As a non-fiction writer for the mass market, Freud has had no equal over the long haul - from the 1930s to the year 2000, he has been Penguin's bestseller (and they intend to maintain him in that position in the new millenium with an ambitious new paperback Penguin Freud, with new translations, under the general editorship of Adam Phillips). For the centenary, Fischer Verlag have produced a beautifully bound and printed photographic copy of the first edition of Die Traumdeutung, with an accompanying booklet of essays. In this country, Laura Marcus has edited a collection of essays, Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams (recently published by Manchester University Press). And Penguin, under the general rubric "Does Freud Still Matter?", are publishing or reprinting this month a good dozen books on Freud, from Susie Orbach, Frederick Crews, Juliet Mitchell, Joseph Schwartz and others. There's even an entirely new translation by Joyce Crick for Oxford World's Classics of the first edition of The Interpretation of Dreams - an edition that has never been published before in English. …