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Freud and Vienna

[clock] 24-MINUTE READ ISSUE:  Winter 2001

Freud and Vienna go hand-in-hand in our minds, like Jefferson and Monticello, or Dickens and London. Freud’s home at Berggasse 19 has become a place of pilgrimage, a tourist attraction that draws the faithful and the merely curious alike. Yet on both sides the relationship was far more deeply conflicted than is generally realized. The purpose of this essay is to explore the reasons for the reciprocal tension.

The fact that Freud was neither born in Vienna nor did he die there assumes an almost symbolical significance. He was not ultimately one of the Viennese, not “bodenständig” (rooted in the ground), to use the Austrian legal term for a person’s belonging to their birthplace. Freud was born in 1856 in the small town of Freiberg in Moravia, one of the Eastern provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1860 the family moved to Vienna where Freud lived and worked for the following 77 years. During the great economic slump in Austria after World War I, he thought of moving to Berlin, which had become one of the centers of psychoanalysis, but he left Vienna only in 1938, the year before his death, under the duress of the Nazi threat and with much reluctance.

In those 77 years Vienna had undeniably become home to Freud. Paradoxically, however, at some level he remained an outsider, a “Zugeraster” in Viennese dialect; the word; a corruption of “zugereist” (traveled there) was the common denotation for immigrants, particularly for the East European Jews who flocked to the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Throughout his life Freud enjoyed a far higher reputation beyond Vienna than in his adopted hometown. Most members of his circle came to him from elsewhere: from Berlin (Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Hanns Sachs), Budapest (Sandor Ferenczi, Sandor Rado), Zurich (Carl Jung), the United States (Abraham Brill, Ruth Mack Brunswick), Britain (Ernest Jones, Joan Riviere), Holland (Jan van Emden, Jeanne Lampl de Groot), etc. Viennese adherents to psychoanalysis were decidedly in the minority. But as Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin point out in their book, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (Simon & Schuster, 1973), Freud was no exception in lacking recognition in Vienna: “Few cities have been as unkind as Vienna, during their lifetimes, to those men it proclaimed cultural heroes after their deaths.” The composers, Schubert, Mahler, Hugo Wolf, and Schönberg, were, like Freud, subject to neglect, though perhaps not to as much active opposition.


In order to understand the sources of the conflicted relationship between Freud and Vienna, it is essential to take into consideration the politico-historico-cultural environment that formed the context for Freud’s work.

Vienna was then the capital not of a minor Central European country but the hub of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire that extended over much of Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, the Balkans—to all intents and purposes the immense tracts between Austria and Russia—were all ruled from Vienna. The malaise inherent to this enormous domain is already indicated by its strange self-denomination: it was “königlich und kaiserlich” (royal and imperial), “k und k” for short, because its titular head, Franz Josef, was crowned king of Hungary and emperor of the Habsburg lands. This dinosaur lumbered along with a bureaucracy so complex and incompetent as to give credibility to Kafka’s portrayal of it.

The bureaucracy’s frequent misunderstandings and mismanagement resulted from the often inadequate comprehension, particularly in remote areas, of the official language, German. The local languages were, of course, dominant in a half-hearted attempt at a sort of multiculturalism. German was taught in high schools as the second language, but sometimes was done so deliberately badly as a gesture of rebellion, an expression of a suppressed nationalist consciousness. Freud’s exceptional mastery as a German prose stylist, acknowledged by the award of the Goethe prize in 1930, is an ironic comment on his place in Austrian culture, although it did not exempt him from the prevailing intolerance. Vienna was Vienna, and everywhere else, with the possible exception of Budapest, the other capital, was viewed with suspicion and contempt.

The political condition of this cumbersome Empire can best be described as one of chronic instability because of the rivalries between diverse groups and the incessant struggle by one faction or another to gain the upper hand. The time when the Freud family moved to Vienna actually coincided with a period of relative liberalism. “Relative” is the operative word here, for although the Empire had the trappings of constitutional government, its parliament had little real power. The right to appoint and dismiss ministers was the emperor’s prerogative so that the ministers were responsible to him, not to the legislature. The liberals rose to ascendancy to fill the vacuum created by the defeats of the Austrian army in 1859 and 1866. So they got the opportunity to govern by default rather than through inherent strength or a political mandate. Their power base was narrow, dependent on the middle class in urban centers such as Vienna. The exclusive Catholic aristocracy continued to remain influential, while the needs and interests of the working class were largely ignored. Increasingly identified with capitalism, the liberals maintained parliamentary power by the wholly undemocratic and illiberal device of a franchise restricted to the well-to-do. Such a limited suffrage persisted in Viennese municipal elections too. The stock market crash in May 1873, which initiated a severe and lengthy depression, threw the weak liberals into disastrous disarray.

The fragility of the government inevitably had the effect of emboldening various of the disparate interest groups within the Austro-Hungarian Empire to press their claims for greater political participation. Foremost among these were the urban artisans, the peasants, and the Slavic peoples. Inspired partly by Socialist ideals and partly by nationalist aspirations, these groups formed mass parties in the 1880’s which rapidly gathered sizeable followings. In 1895 even Vienna, the bastion of liberalism, fell to a coalition that went under the seemingly innocuous name of Christian Socialism, a name that veiled an anti-Semitic thrust. The Pan-Germans, who campaigned for a closer alliance between Austria and Germany, added a further dimension to the growing unrest. Long before the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was the power-keg of Europe.

The victory of the Christian Socialists in 1895 led to the nomination of Karl Lueger (1844—1910) to be mayor of Vienna. From lowly origins, Lueger underwent an evolution from political liberalism through democracy and social reform to find his eventual integrating ideology in anti-Semitism. When the elderly emperor at first refused to sanction his appointment, Freud is reputed to have smoked a celebratory cigar. But the triumph was short-lived for in 1897 the reluctant emperor, under pressure from the Catholic hierarchy, did finally ratify Lueger’s election, which marked the formal end of liberal ascendancy. Lueger initiated a decade of all that was anathema to liberalism: clericalism, socialism, and anti-Semitism. His only lasting positive contribution was the construction of low-cost municipal housing, for which Vienna became the model.

Even more sinister than Lueger was his contemporary Georg von Schönerer (1842—1921), a minor aristocrat who conceived himself as the militant knight-redeemer of the Germanic heritage. Although different from Lueger in background and purpose, Schönerer too used extreme anti-Semitism as a rallying force. More than any other figure, he was disruptive of legitimate Austrian political life, introducing the new strategies of stridency, raucous debate, and open street-brawling characteristic of Vienna in the last decade of the 19th century. Carl Schorske, in his Fin-de-Siècle Vienna (Vintage, 1981), coined the graphic phrase “pioneers in post-rational politics” for Lueger and Schönerer, patently precursors of Hitler in both ideology and methodology.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the city where Nazism was prefigured was also and simultaneously the cradle of Zionism. In 1896 Theodor Herzl (1860—1904) published his momentous pamphlet Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) in which he argued for the need for a Jewish national homeland. This plea was the culmination of a development that amounted to a total reversal. Herzl, who was a prominent journalist and editor of the literary section of the Neue Freie Presse (New Free Press), Vienna’s distinguished liberal newspaper, had long been, like so many Viennese Jews, an assimilationist. His four years of close observation of French political and social life while a reporter in Paris, and especially his experience of the Dreyfus Affair, transformed him from a concerned liberal into a crusader for Zionism.

These complicated currents and countercurrents of the Vienna where Freud grew up and embarked on his life work are symptoms of the dangerous volatility that threatened the Austro-Hungarian Empire and led to the outbreak of World War I and the subsequent dissolution of the monolithic dinosaur.


By beginning with the political and social turmoil in Vienna in the late 19th century—turmoil that extends into the 20th century—I am inverting the customary order of presenting the city. Usually the primary focus is on the glamor of the so-called “City of Dreams” with only later reference to its troubles. As Janik and Toulmin put it: “In the popular imagination, the name “Vienna” is synonymous with Strauss waltzes, charming cafes, tantalizing pastries, and a certain carefree, all-embracing hedonism.” Which then was the real Vienna?

Both, not only simultaneously but also in a curiously complementary fashion. For its surface was sparkling and the irruption of its darker sides was passed off by most Viennese, with ostrich-like defense mechanisms, as merely sporadic disturbances. The city’s appearance became increasingly beautiful and impressive as emperor Franz Josef fulfilled his large-scale building program between 1858 and 1888. A new neo-Gothic city hall and parliament were constructed, the Imperial Palace, an opera house, and a theater as well as two museums. These splendid edifices were encompassed by a 60-foot wide, tree-lined circular boulevard, the Ringstrasse, to which was added an outer circle, named the “Gürtel” (beltway). So Vienna at this period assumed its justly famous design.

The city also derived a certain glitter from its role as the capital of the Empire, the site of the court’s brilliant ceremonials, and the seat of power. The concept of the capital held far greater meaning in 19th- and early 20th-century Europe than it ever has done in the United States. Because of its very size as an entire Continent, the United States has always had a constellation of regional mini-capitals in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, to which were added more recently Atlanta, and Houston. Indeed, in many respects these regional centers have equalled or outdone the official capital, Washington. In Europe, on the other hand, the dichotomization between the attractions of the capital and the dreariness of the provinces became particularly pronounced in the 19th century as first Paris and then Vienna were reconstructed into their modern form. The lure of power, elegance, wealth, and cultural riches made them into potent magnets. In 19th-century French literature, Paris is the object of every ambitious young man’s desire from Stendhal’s Julien Sorel in The Red and the Black to the many struggling heroes in Balzac’s Human Comedy, not to mention Flaubert’s Emma Bovary. To all of them Paris is the only place in the country to attain happiness not only by making one’s fortune but also by being able to participate in the exciting life of the wide world.

Vienna did have a competitor in Budapest, but Budapest was just the royal capital while Vienna was dually royal and imperial. Above all, it was unrivalled as the center for cultural activity of every kind: in the theater, in music, in opera, in literature, in the visual arts, in architecture, in philosophy, in psychology, in publishing, in the university, in science, and last but certainly not least, in medicine. In proclaiming Vienna the birthplace of the modern, Schorske singles out the strong cohesiveness of the aesthetic and intellectual elite through the flourishing of the coffee-house, where the artistic, the academic, the journalistic, and the scholarly communities intersected effortlessly in a unique manner. Frequented also by educated professional and business people, the coffee-houses were a vital institution that provided the perfect forum for the free exchange of ideas.

This vibrant Vienna must not, however, be seen as wholly separate from the city that was at once politically stagnant and turbulent. The striking innovativeness of the artists, the intelligentsia, and medical men served as a compensation for the frustrations encountered in the political arena. When Freud was finally appointed to an adjunct professorship in 1902—through the string-pulling intervention of a well-connected patient—he wrote in a mocking tone to his Berlin colleague Wilhelm Fliess that it was as if the role of sexuality had suddenly been recognized by His Majesty, the interpretation of dreams confirmed by the Council of Ministers, and the necessity for psychoanalytic therapy for hysteria carried by a two-thirds majority in parliament. The irony stems from the fact that the Austrian parliament was by 1902 so rent with strife that it was incapable of attaining a simple majority, let alone the two-thirds required to enact legislation.

As attempts at civic action grew more and more futile, art became, in Schorske’s words, “almost a religion, the source of meaning, and the food of the soul.” It afforded an outlet for the energies otherwise thwarted, a safe haven from the unproductive confusion of politics, the ideal arena for the exploration of provocative ideas. Nor were cultural interests confined to the intelligentsia and practicing artists. Despite the existence of a certain culture-hostile mass, involvement in cultural endeavors was remarkably widespread, especially among the middle and upper-middle class. The extent and the intensity of this commitment to culture are a distinctive aspect of Vienna at that time. Aesthetic taste was in a sense a barometer of social and economic status, but beyond that it was also a measure of pride and self-respect for the bourgeoisie. Freud’s collection of archeological objects as well as the multiple literary allusions in his psychoanalytic writings indicate his participation in the Viennese passion for art.

Hopes of a richly satisfying life drew many immigrants from the Empire’s Eastern provinces to the City of Dreams. Educational and professional opportunities were vastly greater in both breadth of horizon and levels of attainment than in the more remote areas. The stimulation of the artistic performances and the abundant flow of ideas in the coffee-houses were in themselves likely to animate lively minds. It is not at all hard to see why families such as the Freuds would decide to move to Vienna. Jacob Freud, a wool-merchant, did not prosper in Freiberg; in 1855 he married his third wife, Amalia Nathanson, who had by 1860 already given birth to a son and a daughter. Their future prospects, as events proved, would certainly be better in Vienna than in Moravia.


The Viennese openly resented the “Zugeraste” who poured into their city, often poor and with large families. They saw them as alien elements diluting and even polluting their cherished space. With a humor tinged with cruelty they quipped that there were more “Herzogowiener” (those from Herzogovia), “Bukowiener” (those from Bukovina), and “Slowiener” (those from Slovenia) than “Wiener” (native Viennese) in the city’s population.

The animosity against the newcomers was unquestionably fuelled by the anti-Semitism endemic to Vienna and propagated by Lueger and Schönerer. Many of the immigrants from the Eastern outreaches of the Empire were Jewish, impelled to move on by the sporadic pogroms in their hometowns. The designation “Ostjuden” (Eastern Jews) became a term of rejection and abuse. Those from Galicia in particular were spurned because they tended to be orthodox in their religious practices. Their strange garb, esoteric rituals, and Yiddish language aroused an unmitigated contempt amounting to hatred. Their German was said to be debased by a singsong Yiddish intonation. The venom against “Ostjuden” was so deeply ingrained that it persisted long after the second generation had acclimatized to the city’s lifestyle. Indeed, in 1938 some native Jews believed that Hitler’s persecution applied only to the “Ostjuden,” and they themselves would have been glad to be cleansed of these intruders. Even to bear a name such as “Sarah” was still a stigma and a significant handicap in medical school in the 1920’s. The non-observant Freuds gave their children first names untainted by associations with the Old Testament: Sigismund, Anna, Rosa, Marie, Pauline, and Alexander. And they were Moravians who, like Hungarians, were subject to rather less overt hostility than the despised Galicians.

The Freud family came to Vienna before the 1867 Bill of Rights, an important product of the liberal period, that bestowed on Jews de jure if not de facto civil and judicial equality. After 1867 the percentage of Jews in the city rose rapidly. In 1857 there had been a mere 2 percent at 6000; in 1867 6 percent at 40,000; in 1880 10 percent at 72,000, and in the 1920’s the figure stood at nearly 11 percent, the highest concentration in Central Europe.

The immigrants’ gradual rise to the middle class can be traced through their successive preferred addresses. Freud’s parents, like my grandparents, followed the pattern of settling first across the Danube Canal in Vienna’s second district, Leopoldsstadt, the hub of Jewish life, not to say the ghetto. The next generation, professional people like Freud and my parents, moved to the ninth district close to the Ring, the university, the city hall, and the central core. There they lived side by side with non-Jewish neighbors of similar social and financial standing. The newcomers’ progress is also denoted by the explosion of Jewish enrollments at the university by the 1870’s despite unwritten caps and outspoken prejudice. It is still startling to come upon the virulent attack made by the eminent surgeon Theodor Billroth, in his account of medical education in German universities, on the poverty, ambitiousness, wretched German, and lack of talent of Eastern Jewish students in Vienna at the turn of the century.

Notwithstanding discrimination and prejudice, Jews played a disproportionate role in Vienna’s economic, professional, and cultural life. Arguably, their high visibility itself fostered resentment; however, the anti-Semitism preceded their prominence. Between 1900 and 1910, according to Bruce F. Pauley’s From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Antisemitism (North Carolina, 1991), 71 percent of Vienna’s financiers, 65 percent of her lawyers, 63 percent of her industrialists, 59 percent of her physicians, and more than 50 percent of her journalists were Jewish. Jews gravitated to these so-called independent professions to avoid the difficulties they knew they would encounter in seeking employment. The Jewish professionals were on the whole well patronized by the Viennese, who reasoned rather cynically that they were likely to be better qualified than their non-Jewish counterparts since they had to reach a higher standard than Gentiles in order to pass the university examinations. Among the 512 members of the lower parliament, however, only 10 were Jews.

The Jews’ professional assiduousness did not shield them from being cast as the eternal, convenient scapegoat. They were held responsible for the stock market crash of 1873, and for any and every other setback that occurred. The Viennese saying ran: “Who’s to blame?” “The Jew.” “Why?” “Because that’s the way it is.” Jews were envisaged as cosmopolitan speculators and corrosive parasites. The city was described in 1884 by the Swiss art historian Jakob Burckhardt as thoroughly “verjudet.” The usual translation, “judaized,” misses the negativity implicit in the German word; the particle “ver-” (as in “verdorben,” spoilt; “verkehrt,” upside down or back to front; “verrückt,” literally pushed out of its proper place, commonly “crazy”) always conveys something amiss, out of order, gone wrong. By the upper classes of high school, as Peter Gay records in Freud: A Life for Our Time (Doubleday, 1989), Freud had begun to recognize the consequences of being descended from an alien race.

With the rise of Lueger and Schönerer, the Austrians’ instinctive, emotional anti-Semitism intensified as it was organized into a political program, Its momentum gathered strength in the shift from a religious to a racist issue. Because of its potential for unifying many disparate factions, anti-Semitism proved a fruitful political platform, a means of tallying forces under an appealing slogan, in short, an excellent means of getting ahead.

In light of these circumstances, it may seem surprising that Jews continued to move to Vienna right into the 20th century. Yet conditions and, above all, educational and professional opportunities were still far better than in the Eastern provinces. The Russian advance into Poland in 1914 triggered a further wave of immigrants. Viennese anti-Semitism was simply accepted as an unpleasant fact of life, the price to be paid for the privilege of enjoying the city’s many positive facets. In any case, in Poland anti-Semitism had been even more rabid so that the “Ostjuden” were accustomed to it. By and large, Viennese Jews chose to ignore all but the worst manifestations of anti-Semitism. Instead, adapting to their environment, they immersed themselves in scientific and literary pursuits. Another escape route was conversion; the rates were high. A compromise alternative was to declare oneself “konfessionslos” (without a religion), assuming a totally secularized stance, as Freud did. There were few university professors who had not been baptized.

Jews thus occupied a curiously contradictory position in Vienna: they were both central to the city’s life and marginalized. This equivocal situation prevailed until the Anschluss with Nazi Germany in 1938. But even then the paradox persisted insofar as the Austro-Germans wanted to rid the country of Jews, yet devised every conceivable obstacle to prevent them from leaving. And it is no coincidence that it was in Vienna under Adolf Eichmann that the persecution of the Jews entered a new, infinitely more virulent phase.


Obviously, this was not an easy context for Freud and his work. The relationship between him and Vienna was deeply conflicted. Freud’s ambivalence is best exemplified in his assertion in 1909: “I could beat my Viennese with a stick.” Note that even though he is inclined to beat them, they are nonetheless “my” Viennese. In 1910 he complains that it is becoming steadily more difficult to deal with them. Only just before the outbreak of war in July 1914 does he experience what Gay calls “an unexpected bout of patriotism” when he writes: “Perhaps for the first time in thirty years I feel myself an Austrian and would like to give this rather unpromising empire a chance.” The somewhat hesitant tone here contrasts with the decisiveness of his initial letter from London in 1938 in which he states that he is aware “for the first time in my life what fame means.” Still, he admits: “The triumphant feeling of liberation is mingled too strongly with mourning for one had loved the prison from which one has been released.” Nowhere is the conflict in Freud’s mind about Vienna more clearly voiced than in this avowal of mixed love and mourning for the city that had become a prison to him.

From the outset Freud was imprisoned by two factors. First, having arrived at the age of four, he was not “bodenständig.” Secondly, he was Jewish. Freud never practiced his religion, even forbidding his wife to light the traditional Friday night candles, as she would have wished. Yet he never repudiated his Judaism. In 1897 he joined the local “lodge” of B’nai Brith, an international Jewish cultural and philanthrophic association, where he gave popular lectures to his brethren. None of his children either converted or married out. Though without religious faith, he did not flee into outright assimilation, as many Viennese Jews did.

Vienna’s attitude toward Freud was less ambivalent than his toward Vienna: largely it was negative. The Interpretation of Dreams, a work now regarded as so crucial that we are celebrating the centenary of its publication, went virtually unnoticed on its appearance in 1900. It was hardly reviewed in journals, and Freud deemed most of the few reviews it did receive “idiotic.” Professionals dismissed it as a bunch of fairy-tales. In its first six years it sold 315 copies.

The reception of the Interpretation of Dreams illustrates the censorious prejudice against Freud in official circles. Again and again he was passed over for appointment to an adjunct professorship in favor of nonentities. An adjunct professorship was important to Freud as a mark of recognition of his work that would also give him a much needed financial boost. It held high significance too in a country to this day obsessed with titles. Thus Freud would be addressed as “Herr Professor Doktor,” while his wife became “Frau Professor Doktor.” Still, the academic psychiatric establishment persisted in shunning him. In a nice twist of fate, its head, Julius Wagner-Jauregg, who won the Nobel Prize in 1927 for the treatment of syphilis by malaria infection, is now totally forgotten, whereas Freud is a central figure of our age. With an edge of bitterness, Freud lamented how much more easily he would have been granted the medical school appointment if his name had been Oberhuber, a sturdily Austrian name. The slot assigned to him for his weekly lecture, Saturday 5—7 p.m., assured a minimal audience.

Nevertheless, as word spread on his theories of sexuality, they prompted the utmost scandal. Freud was decried as a libertine, especially after the publication in 1905 of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, which explored the idea of infantile sexuality. The profession and the public alike rejected his theories as repulsive pornography and an affront to religion. At the Hamburg Congress of Neurologists and Psychiatrists in 1910 Professor Wilhelm Weygandt proclaimed that Freud’s theories were not a matter for discussion at a scientific meeting but for the police. In a milieu very intent on appearances, on the maintenance of decorum and respectability, Freud infringed a taboo by speaking openly about sexuality. The very vehemence of the outcry against Freud suggests that he was touching a raw nerve. The Viennese were undoubtedly preoccupied with sex, as the works of Freud’s friend and fellow physician, Arthur Schnitzler demonstrate; but precisely for that reason the subject was to be kept securely under cover.

Particularly disgusting to his contemporaries was Freud’s view of sexuality as a normal part of development from infancy onward and among women too. Sexology had its precedents, notably Richard Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, a treatise published in 1886 that investigated sexual perversions. In a bizarre way such an approach was more permissible than Freud’s which subverted middle-class pieties by asserting that sexual activity was ubiquitous and natural. Similarly, the belief that dreams are coded messages, censored and disguised fulfillments of wishes or projections of fears seemed shocking and absurd, the more so when applied not just to a few psychologically disturbed individuals but to all human beings. The possibility of unconscious motivation, of interfering drives from the id was menacing to bourgeois self-assurance and control. Altogether, the unfettered talk of psychoanalysis with its principle of free association was, as Gay puts it, “the nemesis of concealment, hypocrisy, the polite evasions of bourgeois society” (Freud: A Life for Our Time).

But the picture would be slanted without mention of the support Freud did have in Vienna. Not surprisingly, it was most evident among his fellow outsiders. One of them, Elias Canetti, a novelist who was himself a Jew from Romania, recounts how in 1923 there was hardly a conversation in his circle in which the name of Freud did not occur. Analyzing slips of the tongue became a kind of parlor game in some coffee-houses. Freud scored his most signal success in 1929 with Civilization and Us Discontents; its 12,000 printed copies sold out rapidly. Its title (if not its contents) held a strong appeal during a period of disillusionment and catastrophic inflation following World War I and the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The violence of the street rioting in 1927 expressed the gravity of the political discontent. For once Freud seemed to be in consonance with the mood of Vienna, although he was, of course, addressing a different type of discontent.

Mostly, however, a clash of ideologies divided Freud and Vienna. Personally he was the incarnation of much that was spurned by the Viennese: he was a “Zugeraster,” a Jew, a professional maverick who undermined the bourgeois status quo by grossly unpalatable theories about what goes on in our minds beneath the surface. Beyond that, his creed of absolute frankness, of the necessity of confronting inner conflicts and of speaking out in order to achieve emotional health challenged head on the prevailing conventions of silent respectability, of keeping up appearances at all costs. The promotion of Vienna’s self-image as the City of Dreams is emblematic of its thrust to prettify reality. Freud, on the other hand, by exposing the psychologically murky undersides of dreams, appeared as a grievous debunker of a mirage. The pleasure (and the repression) principle is here sharply at loggerheads with the call to face ulterior realities represented by psychoanalysis.

When the relationship between Freud and Vienna is seen from this political, social, and psychological perspective, the reasons for its conflicted nature on both sides become more apparent. It seems somehow symbolic that what Freud loved most about Vienna were the woods on its periphery, an open, natural stretch beyond the city’s physical and metaphorical limits.


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