Re-reading The Interpretation of Dreams for a novel I’m working on. I’d forgotten how unnerving it is to read Freud, brought on I think by the tension caused by using measured scientific language to describe the bizarre. This sort of tension has always appealed to me – I think of Memoirs of my Nervous Illness by Judge Schreber and The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton. The strange as a trope.
And what could be stranger than this human impulse to produce stories. All literature shares this tacit agreement with the reader. To put it in the demotic – ‘Isn’t this weird?’ I am always drawn to fiction that walks on this line – Moby Dick, The Robber by Robert Walser. Poe (‘that silent scream from the smiling face of America’ – Doctorow). Henry James who is, as far as I’m concerned, utterly mad, but has somehow performed the neat trick of having most people not notice. Always dancing around the mystery and making the mystery darker still by doing so.
This is Freud for me – whatever the veracity of his claims, he is telling one hell of a story. Reading him is to hear the sound of a man telling us, quietly and calmly, in measured tones, that beneath this thin veneer, we are all insane.