Crazy years – histories of psychoanalysis on the margins of the 1920s

Patrick Caulfield, Freud's Smoke, 1997


Presentation of the recently released book by Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira

As I read this highly inspired book, another contemporary figure of Freud came to mind among the countless artists, writers, politicians and scientists who appear in it, when the author invites us to delve into that time when psychoanalysis was already approaching its 20th anniversary. . This is Marie Skłodowska Curie, a pioneer in research on radioactivity, known for the feat of being the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, also becoming the first person to receive it twice and in two different areas: physics and science. chemical.

Less to compare geniuses than to illustrate the risks to which pioneers in research fields are exposed, whose raw material is as potent as it is uncontrollable. It is known that the scientist, as well as her husband and others involved in this research, would die as a result of prolonged and unprotected contact with radioactivity.

Freud and others involved in the obsessive research of the unconscious will also find themselves, too late, exposed to rich material, whose healing power does not hide the risk of illness. That which intends to heal, and when it does so, when mishandled, it turns out to be toxic.

Cure for cancer, on the one hand, atomic bomb, on the other, we will see that arrogance in the face of the unknown was never a good adviser. Are Crazy Years, Annees Folles ou Roaring Twenties, will say Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira, whose fine irony and acid criticism do not hide his passion for psychoanalysis and respect for its history. Demystifying its creators and revealing its flawed and mistaken humanity, it brings us closer to the material of its object: the discovery of the unconscious-radioactivity without due care and knowledge when handling it.

Deep knowledge of the history of the movement that crossed Western culture from the Eurocentric axis, the author will use the line of the famous reel of the game of fort-da to speak of Freud's serious difficulty in separating from his beloved daughters and, even more, of the effect of psychoanalytic research on the unprotected bosom of family relationships. Even more, the effect of family passions – and deaths – at the heart of the theory.

Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira suggests his own way of working with the material – both unpublished and previously published –, intertwining intimate chronological facts with the formulation of theories to pose thought-provoking questions. The reflection that this methodology raises has effects on the reader, who will not leave with the same impression as the creator of psychoanalysis and some of his followers. Class of iconoclasm that psychoanalysis is proud to defend, as it is against the maintenance of myths, especially among its founders. Humanizing Freud to better make use of his discoveries.

In this volume, we have access, through unpublished correspondence, as well as already known material, to a significant part of the private life of the Freud family. The one that best reveals Sigmund as a notoriously invasive father. Eager with three daughters – in addition to his three sons –, dedicated and loving, Freud suffered the early loss of what would be his favorite, Sophie, as a result of fulminating pneumonia.

The grandson, Sophie's son, in turn, is none other than the boy who took fame for the reel game. This book presents for the first time the daily of Sophie with her little son Ernst, in which the famous scene of the fort-da. The child, Wolfgang Ernst Halberstadt – his father's surname – grew up and came to be called W. Ernest Freud due to the need to sustain and maintain the Freud lineage.

Finally, only Ernest Freud, grandson of O Freud. With the premature and traumatic death of his mother, Ernest will experience a series of misfortunes, partly due to the circumstances of the time, partly due to the difficulties of the Freuds – whose transgenerational history of humiliation and loss leaves deep marks –, partly due to his reckless experiments. psychoanalytical.

And what a time! The period between the two Great World Wars, in whose epicenter lived the flu epidemic of 1918 and the Great economic Depression. Not bad as a context for the production of Beyond the pleasure principle. But, if the time was propitious, the author's great insight is to reveal to us how much the private world was as much or more responsible for the formulations that we read in “ APP”, for intimates.

Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira is among the intimates of this and other monumental works by Freud, as we can see in his collaboration in the exquisite publication of the Incomplete Works of Sigmund Freud, carried out by Autêntica publishing house. Project that can be considered a source of pride for the publishing market of Brazilian psychoanalysis, especially in times of pandemic and renewed threats to democracy in our country.

The book also presents the obsessive analysis of Anna Freud, carried out by her own father, a very rich material for understanding the origins of the formulations of the death drive, intimately linked to the daughter's homosexuality, greatly induced by the father, who kept all his feelings away from the daughter. suitors. In the same year it published Beyond the pleasure principle, Freud also publishes “The psychogenesis of a case of homosexuality in a woman”; and Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira proposes a disturbing parallel between them. For the Beyond, the well-known contributions of Sándor Ferenczi, Victor Tausk and Lou Andreas-Salomé will not be neglected here, nor will we go back to reading Freud in the same way when we get to know the content of the family correspondence.

Freud's parade of women does not stop with Sophie, as we know. Without even touching on the name of the pathfinder patients of psychoanalysis instantly associated with Freud, we will see a female constellation that takes the reader's breath away: Anna, not “O”, but the patient daughter; Martha, the wife; Minna, the close friend sister-in-law; Mathilde, the eldest daughter; Andreas-Salomé, the disputed disciple; Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, patient and daughter-in-law, living with her daughter…

O dark continent, which Sigmund tries to pioneer, know and control, radiates, leaving the would-be conqueror scorched.

It is up to us to assume that there are no excuses for the misuse of this powerful legacy that we inherited from the genius of Sigmund Freud. The suffering of the pioneers serves as a warning and reflection and places us, more than ever, before the ethics of psychoanalysis.

*Vera Iaconelli, psychoanalyst, holds a doctorate in psychology from USP. Author, among other books, of Discomfort in motherhood: from infanticide to maternal function (Zagodoni).


Luiz Eduardo Prado de Oliveira. Crazy years: histories of psychoanalysis on the margins of the 1920s. Belo Horizonte, Autêntica, 2022, 230 pages (

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