Friday, May 04, 2007

Real people in novels : a new idea?

Also in today's blog
Finding Dalrymple's articles

My apologies for misleading you into thinking that Theodore Dalrymple's new column for The Spectator is readable at their website. Apparently it's "subscribers only".

However, a wide range of his excellent pieces can be found by typing his name into Google. A good starter piece is at the Brussels Journal from which site I borrowed the photo of him. Wonder who the flowers are for? His French wife is my guess. Since TD's retirement, the Dalrymples have made their home in France.

Real people in fiction e.g. Sigmund Freud

Perhaps I'm having a lapse of memory but, off hand, I can't remember a novel featuring an internationally-known real person in the way that Jed Rubenfeld uses Sigmund Freud as a character in The Interpretation of Murder.

As a Princeton undergraduate, Rubenfeld wrote his senior thesis on Freud and, at the back of his novel, there's a long Author's Note explaining that, while TIOM, is "a work of fiction from beginning to end", much is based on fact.

"Sigmund Freud did of course visit the United States in 1909, arriving aboard the steamship George Washington with Carl Jung and Sándor Ferenczi on the evening of August 29…Freud did stay at the Hotel Manhattan in New York City for a week before traveling to Clark University to deliver his famous lectures, and he did contract a kind of horror of America. While in the United States, Freud was indeed asked to render impromptu impromptu psychoanalyses, although never, as far as we know, by the mayor of New York City."

What's your view of pyschoanalysis, I wonder? To be honest, my feeling is that it's largely claptrap. Perhaps I'm unfairly prejudiced because I've known one or two people who've tried it and, in my opinion, they would have been more usefully occupied digging the garden or making new curtains rather than pouring out their souls to an analyst.

My doubts about Freud were confirmed by a conversation he has on p 285 of The Interpretation of Murder.

Someone asks him if marriage is a good thing.

"For society or for the individual?" Freud responded. "For society, marriage is undoubtedly beneficial. But the burdens of civilised morality are too heavy for many to bear. How long have you been a wife, Mrs Banwell?"

"I married George when I was nineteen…that makes seven years."

"In that case you will know enough," Freud went on, "if not from your own experience, then that of your friends. not to be surprised by what I say. Satisfying intercourse does not last long in most marriages. After four or five years, marriage tends to fail utterly in this respect, and when this happens it spells the end of spiritual communion too. As a result, in the great run of cases, marriage ends in disappointment, spiritual as well as physical. The man and the woman are thrown back, pyschologically speaking, to their premarital state – with only one difference. They are poorer now. Poorer by the loss of an illusion."

It may be that Freud's negative message was based on personal experience. Many happily married people could have told him that, in fact, good marriages get better as time goes on, in every respect.


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At 05 May, 2007, Blogger بنت الحياه said...

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At 06 May, 2007, Blogger Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I think psychoanalysis is like anything in this world. It'll work for some and not for others.
The e.g. you've quoted re Freud and marriage shows him making assumptions that certainly aren't true for my circumstances, although I can't say whether they are true for others. I married my husband in 1978. We've grown up and changed together, shared experiences, learned some lessons and our marriage is probably more enrichng and fulfilling in every aspect now than it has ever been. So in our case Freud would have been talking rot.

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