The Death of Sigmund Freud: The Legacy of His Last Days (Hardcover)

The Legacy of His Last Days

By Mark Edmundson

Bloomsbury USA, 9781582345376, 288pp.

Publication Date: September 18, 2007



A dramatic revisiting of Freud's escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna, his final days on earth, and his most controversial work "Moses and Monotheism."

When Hitler invaded Vienna in March of 1938, Sigmund Freud, old and desperately ill, was among the city's 175,000 Jews dreading Nazi occupation. The Nazis hated Sigmund Freud with a particular vehemence: they detested his "soul-destroying glorification of the instinctual life." Here Mark Edmundson traces Hitler and Freud's oddly converging lives, then zeroes in on Freud's last two years, during which, with the help of Marie Bonaparte, he was at last rescued from Vienna and brought safely to London. There he was honored as he never had been during his long, controversial life. At the same time he endured the last of more than thirty operations for cancer of the jaw. Confronting certain death, Freud, in typical fashion, did not let fame make him complacent, but instead wrote his most provocative book, "Moses and Monotheism," in which he questioned the legacy of the greatest Jewish leader. Focusing on Freud's last two years, Edmundson is able to probe Freud's ideas about death, and also about the human proclivity to embrace fascism in politics and fundamentalism in religion. Edmundson suggests new and important ways to view Freud's legacy, at a time when these forces are once again shaping world events.

About the Author

Mark Edmundson is a professor of English at the University of Virginia. A prizewinning scholar, he has published a number of works of literary and cultural criticism, including Literature Against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida, Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference, and Why Read?; he wrote the introduction to Beyond the Pleasure Principle in Adam Phillips's celebrated reissue of Freud's work. He has also written for such publications as the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, the Nation, and Harper's, where he is a contributing editor.

Praise For The Death of Sigmund Freud: The Legacy of His Last Days

“In this and his other books, Edmundson provides a great teaching guide to seeing the world afresh. Medford High's Frank Lears would be proud.”Boston Globe "...Mr. Edmundson proves himself a deft and genial explicator...a superb mediation on two kinds of authority, and in its sober, qualified reverence for Freud Mr. Edmundson provides an example of the kind of relationship to greatness that he is advocating. Mr Edmundson presents us with a figure who still has the power to rouse us from our complacency, whose stern, exacting eyes continue to remind us that we are apt to forget: that we must work to change our lives."NY Sun


The Death of Sigmund Freud is a thoroughly engaging, solidly informed, and beautifully written book…His [Edmundson’s] writing is so good and so totally free of off-putting professional jargon that it draws the reader irresistibly into Edmundson’s portrayal of Freud’s last 2 years….Easy reading and a wonderful introduction…Those already familiar with Freud’s writings can still learn much from this fine book.”Journal of American Medicine


“Brilliantly buttressed plea for reconsideration of Freud as philosopher and shrink.”Kirkus Reviews

 "The Death of Sigmund Freud offers a compelling redescription of why the founder of psychoanalysis retains his relevance engaging read...a stirring account of Freud's final months in Vienna...This is the disruptive legacy of Freud's last year, and Edmundson has found the words to bring it alive today."--Los Angeles Times “By tracing the intersecting stories of Sigmund Freud and Adolph Hitler in the days before World War II, Mark Edmundson sheds a fresh light on one of the most pressing questions of our day: the allure of fundamentalist politics and the threat it poses to the values of civilization. The Death of Sigmund Freud is a bracing, brilliant, and urgent book.”—Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire
The Death of Sigmund Freud is a story about just how confused we are by our craving for authority. In Edmundson's riveting book Freud becomes at once more remarkable as a writer, and more ordinary as a person, a figure to be reckoned with rather than to revere. There has not been a better book on why Freud might matter now -- and on why culture-heroes matter at all -- for a very long time.”—Adam Phillips, author of Side-Effects "This book, readable and thrilling, should, I need hardly add, be read."--The Times (UK)

"Edmundson probes Freud's ideas about secular death, and also about the rise of fascism and fundamentalism, and finally grapples with the demise of psychoanalysis after Freud's death, when religious fundamentalism is once again shaping world events. " (UK)