- Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession by Janet Malcolm
Picador, 174 pp, £1.95, February 1982, ISBN 0 330 26737 X
- Psychoanalytic Psychology of Normal Development by Anna Freud
Hogarth, 389 pp, £15.00, February 1982, ISBN 0 7012 0543 1
- Record of a Friendship: The Correspondence of Wilhelm Reich and A.S. Neill edited by Beverley Placzek
Gollancz, 429 pp, £12.50, January 1982, ISBN 0 575 03054 2
The phenomenon of transference – how we all invent each other according to early blueprints – was Freud’s most original and radical discovery. The idea of infant sexuality and of the Oedipus complex can be accepted with a good deal more equanimity than the idea that the most precious and inviolate of entities – personal relations – is actually a messy jangle of misapprehensions, at best an uneasy truce between powerful solitary fantasy systems. Even (or especially) romantic love is fundamentally solitary, and has at its core a profound impersonality. The concept of transference at once destroys faith in personal relations and explains why they are tragic: we cannot know each other.
Vol. 5 No. 13 · 21 July 1983
SIR: Brigid Brophy’s review of Record of a Friendship: The Correspondence of Wilhelm Reich and A.S. Neill (LRB, 15 April 1982) was pure spite. I knew and loved both Reich and Neill. The period of their correspondence included Reich’s last years when he was losing his sanity and believing all kinds of trash and nonsense. By quoting from some of his letters during those years it was easy to convey a picture of him not only as mad but as a totally superficial thinker. The fact is that the book also covered the years when Reich made what many people, including myself, regard as momentous and wholly original discoveries about the ways in which repressions become physiologically anchored in the body. Extracts from letters dealing with this topic, or with Reich’s and Neill’s views about the love rights of adolescents, would have conveyed a radically different picture of the man. I could not help feeling that Brophy was working off some kind of grudge – that she had been undergoing a more orthodox analysis and vaguely suspected that Reichian therapy would have had far better results. Be this as it may, I very much regret that you published such a biased and misleading review.
Department of Philosophy, Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Vol. 5 No. 15 · 18 August 1983
SIR: I wonder what was in your mind when you decided to publish (Letters, 21 July) a letter that asserted that my review of the Reich-Neill Correspondence ‘was pure spite’ and that went on to speculate ‘that Brophy was working off some kind of grudge – that she had been undergoing a more orthodox analysis and vaguely suspected that Reichian therapy would have had far better results.’
I have never been analysed, orthodoxly or otherwise. Now that you have put the supposition into print, over the authoritative-sounding address of a department of philosophy, I expect it will get mistaken somewhere, if only in my obituary, for fact.
The letter writer clearly wanted to record his personal testimony (‘I knew and loved both Reich and Neill’), and I can see you may have felt obliged to publish that. But were you under the same obligation to publish his statement that I (who knew neither of them) was moved by spite?
I see you don’t want to run the sort of letters page that makes it plain that, such is the editor’s loyalty to his reviewers, he won’t publish anything that disputes a review. But is the only alternative a letters page that signals that you will publish any old rubbish you are sent provided it traduces one of your reviewers?