Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Letter from Stockholm 1

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Letter from Stockholm 1

Article excerpt

To some degree, Sigmund Freud's line of thought was anticipated at the end of the 19th century in the work of the famous Swedish playwright and novelist August Strindberg (1849-1912), who wrote penetrating dramas, novels and short stories about a variety of human dilemmas, for example religious misgivings, dreams, loneliness, the relationship between the sexes, and the father and his position in the family. Strindberg studied bigotry, destructive forces and the unconscious motivations of men and women at the turn of the last century. His drama, Fadren (The Father), published in 1887, is an early testimony to the decline of the father's position in Western society, and to the manner in which the family structure was disintegrating. He sent the book to Friedrich Nietzsche. He corresponded with Nietzsche in French and felt a special kinship with him. Strindberg focused on the question of whether a man can really know for certain if he is in fact the father of a particular child. Or is there always a doubt? He paints the portrait of a man tortured by the suspicion, instilled by his wife, that the child he loves and thinks of as his own is, in fact, the child of another man. Strindberg's drama ends with the death of the father who, in his doubt, rage and despair, has been declared mentally ill by his wife, his physician and a clergyman. Strindberg's story illustrates how the issue of the recognition of the father is essential to the understanding of the human being. Strindberg also emphasized the importance of dreams, maintaining that the relationship between dreams and reality is complex. For Strindberg, there was neither time nor place in dreams. This is a notion that he shares with Freud, as we know. Dreams, Strindberg writes in "A reminder", the introduction to the drama Ett Droeuromspel [A Dream Play] (1902), represent an amalgamation of "memories, experiences, free fantasies, absurdities and improvisations". Regarding the persons who appear in dreams, he claims that they can "split, double, multiply, vanish, condense, blur, consolidate". It is as if Strindberg senses that the inner secret life of man can be expressed in dreams.

In a footnote added in 1917 to The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud pointed out that Strindberg possessed an uncanny faculty for understanding the secret nature of parapraxes. In addition, a Scandinavian contemporary of Strindberg, the Norwegian author and playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), dealt with issues similar to those that preoccupied Freud. Ibsen wrote about marriage, relationships and communication between men and women, and took up the theme of the women's liberation movement. He posed the question: how can one understand the hidden messages in the exchanges between men and women?

There is no evidence that Strindberg was ever familiar with Freud and psychoanalysis. On the other hand, he admired the Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger (1880-1903) and his book Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character), as well as the Austrian writer and journalist Karl Kraus (1874-1936) and his magazine Die Fackel (The Torch), in which he sometimes wrote on psychoanalysis (mostly in a critical vein). Kraus, in turn, gave Strindberg a prominent place in his journal, founded in 1899. As early as 1897, Kraus had seen and reviewed Der Vater [The Father]. Likewise, Weininger had studied this play with keen interest. Kraus turned to Strindberg in connection with Otto Weininger's suicide in 1903; Strindberg also wrote a personal and appreciative obituary of Weininger, although it was not published until 1921.

The Earliest Introduction

Freud's name, along with the names of Josef Breuer (1842-1925), Pierre Janet (1859-1947), and Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893), appeared for the first time in a Swedish medical journal in 1893. The article, which addressed traumatic neuroses, was written by Frithiof Lennmalm (1858-1924), Professor of Neuropathology. Lennmalm stressed that, on the one hand, it was not possible to draw a clear line between normal and abnormal in regards to neurotic symptoms, and, on the other hand, that neuroses were illnesses just as real as the organic nervous diseases. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.