Freud and Freud

Correspondence 1904-1938

Edited by I. Meyer-Palmedo

Translated by N. Somers

Polity, 2014, 513 pages


This book reveals much about two of the most famous psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his youngest child Anna Freud (1895-1982) in their own words, in letters to each other, letters meant only for each other. Sigmund had six children and Anna, his youngest child, was the one who gave him the most trouble. She had her own mind. She was very devoted to him, perhaps overly devoted; she never married, and didn’t have a close relationship with her mother, Sigmund’s wife, Martha. Yet, apparently following her father’s rules, she corresponded with her, joined her on vacations, and looked after her when she was ill.

It appears that Sigmund, despite his brilliance and despite being an original thinker, had the discriminatory views of his age about women. We read how he tried repeatedly to persuade Anna to do “female” things, to marry, and not get involved in psychoanalysis. Anna did not listen. She had a difficult unhappy youth, she felt insecure, and was frequently depressed. For awhile, she was a teacher, a woman’s job, or so Sigmund thought. Yet, later, she made contributions to her father’s psychoanalytic theories, and with another woman, she was the founder of child psychoanalysis.

The book begins with a letter from Sigmund in 1904, when Sigmund was forty-eight years old and Anna was nine. The letter, as others that follow, was opinionated and critical. She should have written before (her letter is lost) and advice on her weight. The last letter from Sigmund to Anna in the book is dated 1938, the year before he died. He grumbled about not receiving a letter from her, tells her that her sister in law still complains that she cannot understand her well on the phone, calls her naïve, but ends “most affectionately. Papa.” There is an epilogue, a letter from Lucie Freud, another daughter, about Sigmund’s death, five appendices with additional information, close to a forty page bibliography, and an index of over twenty pages.

The book reveals much about the pair. Anna, for example, felt that the most important thing that a person should strive for is the truth. Although Sigmund is well-known for being over-bearing and opinionated, the book reveals that he and Anna were frequently able to accept people for what they are despite having different views. Both Sigmund and Anna enjoyed nature and many letters reflect this.

Most significantly, the book contains very informative notes. These notes and annotations are sometimes longer than the letters.