cover image Freud: In His Time and Ours

Freud: In His Time and Ours

Élisabeth Roudinesco, trans. from the French by Catherine Porter. Harvard Univ., $35 (576p) ISBN 978-0-674-65956-8

This biography represents a substantial, if not groundbreaking, addition to the extensive body of work on the father of psychoanalysis. The very fact that Sigmund Freud’s life has inspired a deluge of biographies is perhaps Roudinesco’s greatest hurdle; she herself mentions it at the outset and throughout, and she often relates her narrative to the many that came before. One of the ways Roudinesco distinguishes her approach, she claims, is by looking past Freud’s critical acclaim to the controversies and social contexts that surrounded him. Nevertheless, the narrative has all of the elements one might expect of a Freud biography, such as the preoccupations with incest and the many literary and philosophical ideas that shaped him. Perhaps more distinctive are the passages about how Freud’s ideas spread geographically—including an entire chapter devoted to America—and a description of the exact moment Freud developed psychoanalysis. What is largely missing is the promised engagement with Freud in the present day; the focus is instead squarely on Freud’s own time. This book might be most appropriate for those unfamiliar with Freud and his world; those seeking to understand his continuing relevance should look elsewhere. (Nov.)