Neurologist, depth psychologist, cultural theorist and religion critic
Quick, come in, the museum’s closing in a moment. Then I can tell you everything in peace and quiet. Without all the spectators! If you don’t mind, let’s swap places: I’ll lie down on the couch and you can listen with “free-floating attention” to my observations:
I grew up on the “Mazzesinsel”, the ghetto over there in Leopoldstadt.
Nobody could have foreseen that I’d end up here in elegant Alsergrund.
“Do you really think that one day there’ll be a marble plaque saying: “On this spot on 24th July 1895 the secret of dreams revealed itself to Dr. Freud.”?” The rather facetious question put by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), in a letter to a friend. His epochal work “The Interpretation of Dreams” was published in 1899. The first edition of 600 took eight years to sell out – the rest is history. There really is a plaque at the spot mentioned (Himmelstrasse, Bellevue-Wiese, in the 19th district).
But a dream was responsible! Grotesquely, it revealed its secret to me in Grinzing. Where I’m normally so suspicious of all this Viennese fuss about “Gemütlichkeit” and visits to the Heuriger and the opera – what an irony! I’d much prefer just to smoke a cigar in peace. Would you like one? Actually you’re not allowed to smoke in here anymore – I keep forgetting.
Where was I?
Oh yes, in Grinzing. I would never have believed it, but they put up a plaque for me there on that historical spot! Maybe it was some sort of compensation. After all: “This city did everything within its power to play absolutely no part in the development of psychoanalysis.”
Vienna was just afraid of my insights. “Oedipus complex, penis envy and fear of castration” they said to me, the Viennese, and they were scared that my taboo-free approach to sexuality would endanger the young people. Ha! If they only knew! Since I was 40 I’ve been just about celibate. I already had six kids with my dear Martha! Anyway, in 1920 – scandalously late – they finally understood after all, the Viennese, and they awarded me a full professorship. Yes, Vienna was a small-minded “prison” for me. But looking back – from exile – I have to say: “I still loved it very much.”
Text: Verena Brandtner, Fotos: Christine Wurnig