Books: A Piece of the True Couch FREUD: A LIFE FOR OUR TIME

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Just before 82-year-old Sigmund Freud was allowed to leave German-occupied Austria in 1938, the SS insisted he sign a statement claiming he had been treated well. He complied with a flourish: "I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone." This defiant and, under the circumstances, risky display of contempt was typical of the man who invented psychoanalysis. Throughout his life, Freud sought to maintain control. In his final hours, suffering through the last stages of throat cancer in 1939, he told the physician who had accompanied him to England to "make an end of it." The doctor obediently administered enough morphine to induce a coma from which the patient never awakened.

Freud's urge to preside is evident throughout Peter Gay's admiring, though hardly reverential biography. Yale's Sterling Professor of History and author of The Enlightenment and The Bourgeois Experience is a graduate of the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis. Yet if he is a doctrinaire Freudian, he does not show it. The great man, in Gay's eyes, was the product of a culture and period as well as of his upbringing. Yes, he had a beautiful, strong-minded mother whom he once saw naked, or, as he put it, matrem nudam. But he was also a Jew in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at a time of ferment in the arts and sciences. Gay's Freud emerges slowly but heroically from this background as an ambitious outsider driven by what the author calls a "greed for knowledge" and a scarcely suppressed desire to conquer the exclusive Gentile world.

Freud the boy identified himself with Hannibal of Carthage. Freud the founder of the new "mind science" continually sought to assert his authority over associates, nearly all of them Jews. His colleagues appear to have been a touchy lot. Minor disputes frequently ended in nasty breakups and castings- out. But Freud's greatest distress came in dealing with Carl Jung, the son of a Swiss pastor, whose differences with his Viennese teacher had origins in the varying perspectives of Christianity and Judaism. Gay describes two meetings with Jung at which Freud fainted.

At home Freud was the image of the stalwart, bourgeois paterfamilias. His household, including wife, six children, sister-in-law and a Chow named Jo-Fi, revolved around his activities. The man who stunned the world with his theories about human behavior adhered to a thoroughly conventional routine, as Gay describes it:

"Up by seven, he would see psychoanalytic patients from eight to twelve. Dinner was punctually at one: at the stroke of the clock, the household assembled around the dining-room table; Freud appeared from his study, his wife sat down facing him at the other end, and the maid materialized, bearing the soup tureen. Then came a walk to restore the circulation, perhaps to deliver proofs or buy cigars. Consultations were at three, and after that, he saw more analytic patients, often until nine in the evening. Then came supper, sometimes a short game of cards with his sister-in-law Minna, or a walk with his wife or one of his daughters, often ending up at a cafe, where they could read the papers or, in the summer, eat an ice."

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