Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis/Revue Canadienne de Psychanalyse (2006), in press.

Paul Roazen (2005).  Edoardo Weiss: The House that Freud Built.  New Brunswick (U.S.A.) & London (U.K.): Transaction Publishers.  Hardcover.  143 pages. ISBN: 0-7658-0270-8


Professor Paul Roazen died on November 3rd, 2005, at the age of 69, at his home in Cambridge, Massachussetts, of complications from Crohn’s disease.  Only a few days after learning of the death of my esteemed colleague, I received for review this latest of his many books on the history of the psychoanalytic movement.


After his early years at Harvard, Paul taught social and political science at York University in Toronto until he took early retirement a few years ago and returned to Cambridge.  Although his health had been an issue for some time, he continued his research and writing to the end.


Early in his career, Paul devoted himself to the history of psychoanalysis, seeking to interview everyone he could find who had played a part in the movement in its earlier days. The result is a fascinating and important body of work on Freud, Helene Deutsch, Viktor Tausk, Erik Erikson, Edward Glover, Edoardo Weiss, and many other key figures in the history of psychoanalysis.


Unfortunately, members of the movement Freud originated have not always been able to maintain ambivalence, whole object functioning or the depressive position with respect to the master.  As Roazen puts it: “Although psychoanalytic doctrine teaches that divided feelings are inevitable in all important human relations, only toward Freud himself would orthodoxy command that such emotions be considered impermissable” (p.68). As a result, Paul was not always beloved of the Freudians because, while in my opinion never devaluing Freud, he also seems never to have envied and hated him enough to have to idealize him.  Instead, he insisted on seeing Freud whole, warts and all, seeking to penetrate beyond the standard mythology and conventional legends that have grown up around him, as is the proper task of any scholar worth his salt. 


In Brother Animal: The Story of Freud and Tausk (1969) Roazen explored the emotionally complex circumstances surrounding the suicide of Viktor Tausk, Freud's younger colleague who had arrived at important insights into the nature of psychosis, the narcissistic basis of repression, and the idea of ego boundaries, prior to Freud’s developing his own ideas in this area. In the present volume, Roazen reports that Edoardo Weiss, who was a friend of Tausk’s, came to share Paul Federn’s view that, after he became aware that he was dying of cancer, Freud lost some of his compassion.  Weiss felt that “when after the first World war Viktor Tausk was destitute and had fallen into a deep depression, Freud could not give his old friend the moral support he so badly needed” (Weiss as quoted by Roazen, p. 137).


An aspect of the present book that I found of interest concerns the stimulating information it provides about the evolving thinking about psychosis contributed by Paul Federn, Viktor Tausk, and Weiss himself.  Freud had referred Weiss for personal analysis with Federn and Weiss remained to the end an admirer of Federn’s theoretical and technical contributions. Federn’s much neglected ego psychology emphasized not the strength of the drives but the weakness of the ego in psychosis. His perspective encouraged a warm and ego-supportive technique that influenced August Aichhorn, Weiss and others and that may well have been a precursor of some of the concepts and the empathic approach later developed by Kohut who had himself been analyzed by Aichhorn.  Hyman Spotnitz’s approach to the psychoanalysis of preoedipal conditions was also influenced by Aichhorn’s work. This line of theoretical and technical influence, including Weiss’s connections with Franz Alexander, strikes me as a rich field for further research. One of the effects of this volume by Roazen has been to send me to the library to read up on the work of Paul Federn.


Before moving to Rome after the first War, Edoardo Weiss lived and practiced in Trieste. Apart from its psychoanalytic content, the current volume is interesting because of the information it provides about the history of this fascinating city. Located at the northern tip of the Adriatic, it was the Austro-Hungarian empire’s only outlet to the sea.  For many years it was a major seaport and a cosmopolitan city that, under the Hapsburgs, displayed remarkable religious tolerance for its time.


Freud wrote some fifty letters to Edoardo Weiss whom he respected and valued as a pioneering representative of psychoanalysis in Italy. Roazen spent many hours interviewing Weiss, using these letters as the basis of his questioning.  Anna Freud minimized the significance of these letters for a variety of reasons, not least, it appears, because in one from 1935 her father reveals that he had analyzed her.  Out of respect for Weiss’s anxiety not to incur the wrath of the Freudian establishment, Roazen withheld publishing this information until 1969, by which time Weiss had himself published his volume of letters from Freud.


According to Freud (1937) psychoanalysis “… is based on a love of truth—that is, on a recognition of reality—and it precludes any kind of sham or deceit” (p. 248).  But, in practice, such truth values have not infrequently been sacrificed in favour of such competing values as what may from time to time have been deemed to be in the political interest of the psychoanalytic movement.  Paul often drew attention to such conflicts and to the hypocrisies that sometimes resulted from them.


As one example of this, Roazen cites the case of one Professor Enrico Morselli, a well-known psychiatrist in Turin, who had written to Weiss asking for information about Freud’s theories and techniques.  Having corresponded on this topic, Morselli invited Weiss to address an Italian psychiatric convention, and then proceeded to close the discussion with a series of ignorant and ill-founded attacks on Freud and psychoanalysis, distorting the very concepts that Weiss had carefully explained to him.  Morselli went on to publish a two-volume attack on psychoanalysis.  Freud wrote to Weiss requesting that he write a critique of a work Freud considered “completely without value, the only value is its undoubted proof that he [Morselli] is a donkey” (p. 108). Unbeknownst to Weiss, who proceeded to write and publish the critique Freud had requested, Freud himself had privately written flatteringly to Morselli, describing his work as “important” and thanking him for another essay Morselli had written on Zionism.  Weiss was shocked to learn of Freud’s duplicity when Roazen showed him a copy of the letter to Morselli. Freud’s motives for this behavior are not obvious. Perhaps he wanted on one hand to placate what he thought was an influential power in psychiatry in Italy, while at the same time having his critic's work subjected to critique by a valued colleague. 


In chapter 4, "Pioneering Under Mussolini," Roazen describes the events leading to Freud's writing a controversial inscription of one of his books to Mussolini. When Weiss brought a patient of his to Vienna for a consultation with Freud, her father, a playwright, movie producer and a Cabinet member in Mussolini's government, also attended:


At the 1933 interview Forzano gave Freud a dedicated copy of one of his plays co-authored with Mussolini, and asked Freud for a signed photograph, as well as for an inscribed book to be given to Mussolini ….  Freud, not without some subtle irony, picked a recent little volume of his public exchange of letters with Albert Einstein titled Why War? At the time Weiss was very embarrassed because he thought that Freud was obliged for Weiss's sake and in behalf of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society to consent to his patient's father's request.  …  Freud had chosen to write something gracious about what Mussolini had done for excavating and reconstructing archaeological sites in Italy from the Roman past: "Benito Mussolini with the respectful greetings of an old man who recognizes in the ruler the cultural hero." (p. 33).


Together with a relatively favourable mention of Mussolini in Moses and Monotheism, and in light of "his earlier expression of support for an authoritarian regime in Austria, even after it had repressed a socialist uprising in a bloody civil war" (p. 37), these expressions of Freud's political outlook are troubling.  But, as Roazen points out, they occurred before Mussolini instituted his anti-semitic policies in Italy and at a time when Freud himself was very old and very ill.  Weiss himself, Roazen reports, had a strict record of anti-fascism.


In chapter 8, Roazen discusses what he sees as Freud's "Clinical Moralism": his tendency to judge patients as "worthy" or "of only moderate worth" (p. 91) or entirely "unworthy."  "As early as 1907 Freud was contrasting 'scoundrels' with 'neurotics' … " (p. 98).  With respect to a patient about whom Weiss had consulted him, Freud wrote: "In the most unfavorable cases one ships such people, as Dr. A., across the ocean, with some money, let's say to South America, and lets them there seek and find their destiny" (Freud as quoted by Roazen, p. 94). Pointing out that "since so much of Christian culture has paid at least lip service to the preciousness and significance of every single human soul," it is "striking how he [Freud] could be surprisingly explicit in his judgment-making" (p. 91).


But, unlike Paul Roazen, I find such explicit moralism both honest and refreshing, especially in the context of a psychoanalytic culture that naively enjoins clinicians to be "non-judgmental," to adopt a stance of "neutrality," and to take up a position "equidistant" from ego, id, and superego.  Such neutrality and equidistance would only be possible if the analyst had no unconscious.  But analysts do have an unconscious and they have superegos and, hence, they inevitably judge, for that is what the superego does.  Whether and under what circumstances we may choose to make our moral judgments explicit to our patients is controversial, but it is entirely in the spirit of psychoanalysis to insist that we ought to make them explicit--i.e., conscious--to ourselves, like any other significant dimension of our countertransference.  Freud seems to have been considerably less inhibited in this respect than contemporary analysts who, attempting to adhere to an impossible ideal, may be inclined to repress their moralistic countertransference, thus setting up a disguised and destructive return of the repressed.


In summary, like Paul Roazen's other books, in addition to its historical interest, Edoardo Weiss: The House that Freud Built raises significant and controversial issues and stimulates thinking on important psychoanalytic questions.


Donald L. Carveth

York University


  HomePublicationsReviewsPracticeCoursesPsychoanalysisExistentialism | Religion | Values | Blues | Links