In this absorbing, thoughtful narrative, a young writer explores Sigmund Freud’s provocative ideas on creativity and mortality and their roots in his history, while searching for broader lessons about love, memory, mourning, and creativity.
Written in 1915 during winter and wartime, Freud’s little-known essay On Transience records an afternoon conversation with “a young but already famous poet” and his “taciturn friend” about mortality, eternity, and the “sense” of life. In Freud’s Requiem, the philosophical disagreement between Freud and his companions—who may have been the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and his muse and former lover Lou Andreas-Salomé—becomes a prism through which to consider Freud’s creativity as a response to his own experiences, from his passionately curious, lovestruck teenage years to his death after a long struggle with cancer in 1939. Drawing on a variety of literary and historical sources—Homer, Shakespeare, and Goethe, as well as Freud’s own writings, including his letters—Freud’s Requiem is both an intimate personal drama and a spirited intellectual inquiry.
By tracing the connections among Freud’s ideas, his personality, and the world he lived in, Matthew von Unwerth examines the links that Freud made between art and memory. Freud’s Requiem contemplates how, in mourning, we tell stories about our lives that give form and meaning to the events and feelings that threaten to overwhelm us. In recounting our stories, especially our darkest moments, we make sense of them and reclaim lost aspects of our lives, just as Freud did in his account of an afternoon walk with a poet and a taciturn companion.
About Matthew Von Unwerth
Matthew von Unwerth is director of the Abraham A. Brill Library of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, and a coordinator of the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of the Imagination, also located in New York. He is an advanced… More about Matthew Von Unwerth
Ebook | $6.99
Published by Riverhead Books Jul 07, 2005| 256 Pages| ISBN 9781440627965
“Although psychoanalytic ideas provide a backdrop, von Unwerth is equally interested in the characters and experiences—contemporary and historical—that informed Freud’s thought . . . Von Unwerth’s unconventional approach is refreshing, and his literary fluency brings vitality to a well-worn subject.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Delicate, powerful, and full of beauty [with] prose that floats like music. The lives of [Freud and Rilke] make such a powerful story that one wonders why it took so long to hear it. Essential for most libraries and for humanists and scientists alike.” –Library Journal
“A thoughtful riff . . . An interesting disquisition on a small moment that would loom large in Freud’s imagination.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Unwerthproffers biographical interpretations of Freud’s theories on love, attachment, narcissism, grief and mourning, in an accessible, intriguing and daringly speculative study of a little-known work by the ‘father of psychoanalysis.’ ” –Publishers Weekly