Casualty Reports

Robert Taubman

  • The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas
    Gollancz, 240 pp, £6.95, January 1981, ISBN 0 575 02889 0
  • Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
    Cape, 220 pp, £5.95, October 1980, ISBN 0 224 01851 5
  • The Last Crime by John Domatilla
    Heinemann, 155 pp, £5.95, October 1980, ISBN 0 434 20090 5

Anna G. presents herself to Sigmund Freud in Vienna in 1919 suffering from severe breast and ovary pains, diagnosed as hysterical in origin. We are to suppose that her case not only helped Freud with Beyond the Pleasure Principle and his theory of the death instinct, but that he intended his paper on the case, along with the patient’s pornographic writings, to be published in honour of the Goethe centenary in 1932. There are improbable moments in D.M. Thomas’s novel, but on the whole it shows tact and respect towards Freud. And The White Hotel isn’t only a case-history. Its heroine, Lisa Erdman, is more than the ‘Anna G.’ of Freud’s paper: she is also a representative child of her time, who lives on, ‘cured of everything but life’, resumes her musical career and dies in the massacre at Babi Yar in 1941. It is a short and comprehensive novel, and ingenious in suggesting connections between its different narrative levels – psychoanalytical, historical and moral.

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