cover image Freud's Megalomania

Freud's Megalomania

Israel Rosenfield. W. W. Norton & Company, $21.95 (173pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04898-8

A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, Rosenfield delivers in his first novel an intellectual spoof of the so-called ""Freud Wars,"" which have been fought out in NYRB's pages and letters columns. The controversy pits luminaries like Frederick Crews, who dismiss Freudian explanations as pseudo-scientific, against intellectuals who believe Freud's work illuminates the deepest structures of the human psyche. Rosenfield imagines a lost manuscript in which Freud criticizes his own work. This manifesto is an addendum to Moses and Monotheism, Freud's last book. Here the Master realizes, at last, that the great force in human nature is not unconscious drives but self-deception--upon which he has built his own empire: psychoanalysis. Instead of a science, psychoanalysis turns out to be merely a ploy for attention--on a historic scale. The fun here is in the imitation of Freud's sometimes rambling style, and the scholarly armature with which Rosenfield surrounds his document. The work is introduced by a Prof. Albert J. Stewart, an anti-Freudian with his own axes to grind. The document's discovery leads to the story of Freud's heretofore secret love child, Emma, and his mistress, Adelaide Benesh. The endnotes refer to real and imaginary characters, many featured in the NYRB controversy. Freudophiles should enjoy parsing the numerous scholarly notes and research documents and deciding whether they are historically based, pure fiction or an ingenious blend; the descriptions of Freud as a presumptuous, arrogant lover and father are winning. Readers who follow current academic or literary controversies will find this novel amusing and expertly satiric, but the crux of the cleverness may remain mysterious for the uninitiated. (June)