Élisabeth Roudinesco, ‘Sigmund Freud en son temps et dans le nôtre’, Paris: Seuil, 2014, 582 pp.
In the 21st century, Sigmund Freud remains a controversial figure, liable to criticism from both left and right but continuing to attract passionate defenders. At a time when hermeneutic models of reality such as those of both Marxism and Freudianism have ceased to be fashionable and postmodernism rules the roost in academia, the appearance of what claims to be the first-ever serious biography of Freud to be published in France should merit the attention not only of professional therapists but of anyone interested in psychology, philosophy, literature or the history of ideas.
The task falls to Élisabeth Roudinesco, historian, director of research at the Université de Paris-VII and author of a long series of works on psychoanalysis, including a voluminous ‘Dictionnaire de la Psychanalyse’ (co-authored with Michel Plon, 1997) and the eloquent manifesto ‘Pourquoi la Psychanalyse?’ (‘Why Psychoanalysis?’, 1999).
Roudinesco’s new book, whose title may be rendered ‘Sigmund Freud in his time and in ours’, draws on the author’s knowledge of Freud’s complete psychological works and correspondence, as well as the archive material held in London and Vienna, and includes a full bibliography with details of Freud’s writings, their translations into French and the archives consulted. It has a final chapter examining the vicissitudes of the reception of Freud and Freudianism in our day. What is visibly a scrupulously researched and intellectually rigorous study, from a scholar and defender of Sigmund Freud already known for her polemical force, is likely to prove a major literary and intellectual event.
The book is reviewed (in French) by Juliette Cerf in the magazine Télérama (20 September 2014), at:
Note added 5 September 2017: I have now reviewed this book in a post dated 2 September 2017.