is clear that on arrival in the United States Dr. Bettelheim
suffered some culture shock. Americans, he discovered,
had very little understanding of Freud. They had converted
psychoanalysis into a medical specialty, making it, in
Freud's own words, ''a mere housemaid of Psychiatry.''
They were not educated in the classics and had little
contact with culture as Freud understood it. Not to know
the story of Oedipus is to miss the point of Freud's central
doctrine; not to know the legend of Cupid and Psyche is
to misunderstand the very term ''psychoanalysis.'' Worse
still, Americans were unfamiliar with the German distinction
between the natural sciences and the sciences of the spirit
(Naturwissenschaften and Geisteswissenschaften) and so
could not see that psychoanalysis belonged to the latter.
Hence the un-Freudian emphasis on cure and on adjustment
or adaptation to society; in these, the great objects
of American psychoanalysis, neither Freud nor Dr. Bettelheim
has any interest.
Bettelheim says little of the other national schools of
analysis, though Jacques Lacan, for example, agreed with
him about the unimportance of cure and the British school
differs considerably from the vacuously optimistic American
school (as he sees it). And, of course, it is America
he has in mind when he says that a failure to understand
the tragic aspect of Freud's thought has allowed the growth
of an intolerably vulgar Freudianism that supports the
notion that ''unrestrained letting-go'' and ''letting
it all hang out'' is proper conduct on all occasions and
not just on the couch. Like Freud himself, Dr. Bettelheim
thinks that psychoanalysis met much less resistance here
than elsewhere and that the reasons for this were incomprehension
or shallowness of response.
important reason for this failure was the general inability
of Americans to read Freud in German, a second that the
translations meant to ease this problem were unsatisfactory.
It may surprise readers of the ''Standard Edition of the
Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud'' to find
that its chief editor, James Strachey, and his collaborators
(including his co-editor, Anna Freud) are here made responsible
for the failure of American psychoanalysis. Yet Strachey
knew Freud and was not prone to vulgar error. Dr. Bettelheim's
suggestion that he ought to have made it his responsibility
to tell ignorant readers the story of Oedipus or of Psyche
is very odd, for Strachey could no more have supposed
his readers to be in need of such help than Freud himself
did. As Dr. Bettelheim's book progresses, his condemnations
of Strachey grow even stronger. At first he says only
this: ''I do not doubt that Freud's English translators
wanted to present his writings to their audience as accurately
as possible.'' But 60 pages on they are accused of using
various devices to make it ''difficult to gain an understanding
of what (Freud) had in mind'' and of finding ''subtle
ways of putting a distance between him and the reader.''
In short, they distorted Freud on purpose.
one, I daresay, would want to maintain that the ''Standard
Edition'' doesn't need some revision. It would be astonishing
if it didn't. But the implication -or charge - of deliberate
distortion is surely absurd. It may be true that the translators
''cleave to an early stage of Freud's thought, in which
he inclined to science and medicine'' - just as it is
true that Dr. Bettelheim cleaves to ''the more mature
Freud, whose orientation was humanistic.'' Indeed, it
might be thought that Dr. Bettelheim, though he gives
a persuasive account of Freud's progressive abandonment
of his medical attitudes, somewhat exaggerates Freud's
independence of them. But in any case Strachey & Company
were translating the whole of Freud, early and late. Some
of the passages of which Dr. Bettelheim complains may
be too medical in tone, but some can be defended. He scores
some hits, as might be expected, but fewer than he thinks.
any translation there is a drift away from the tone and
even the sense of the original, and this drift is likely
to be stronger when the text is treasured by an institution
that is split by doctrinal and national disagreement;
as in theology, key terms acquire incompatible definitions.
Moreover, the German language has the trick of making
up new terms out of its own substance; lacking this capability,
English has usually resorted to neologisms made from Greek
and Latin roots. To Dr. Bettelheim such words look affectedly
learned, and sometimes they are. Strachey should not have
translated ''Mutterleib'' as ''uterus''; ''womb'' is better.
''Unheil'' is not ''trouble'' but ''disaster.'' ''Masse''
doesn't mean ''group'' -it simply means ''mass'' - and
so an important book, ''Group Psychology and the Analysis
of the Ego,'' has a mistranslated title. Worse still,
''Trieb'' does not mean ''instinct''; Strachey hesitated
over the word, disliking ''drive,'' but he should have
seen that ''instinct'' was worse. ''Triebe und Triebschicksale''
simply doesn't mean ''Instincts and Their Vicissitudes,''
though Dr. Bettelheim's ''Drives and Their Mutability''
is only slightly better. Perhaps ''Drives and Their Vicissitudes''
would be the best compromise.
insists that Freud was always trying to avoid technical
words, so that it is a distortion to make him sound technical
in a translation. For example, ''Besetzung,'' which means
''occupation'' or ''investment'' or ''filling'' in ordinary
German, is translated as ''cathexis.'' But granted the
English habit of making up words from Greek, ''cathexis''
means ''occupation,'' in what is obviously a special sense.
And it must surely have a special sense in Freud. He also
uses ''Uberbesetzung''; not, I am told, a common word.
Is ''hypercathexis'' really more bizarre than ''over-occupation''
point arises with Freud's word ''Fehlleistung,'' a combination
of two ordinary words that means something like ''faulty
achievement.'' Freud used it (pace Dr. Bettelheim) as
a technical term, covering acts or speech-acts in which
the unconscious enters to prevent our doing what we set
out to achieve. Strachey translated ''Fehlleistung'' as
''parapraxis,'' which is rather brilliant and conveys
the sense of Freud's word better than the clumsy circumlocution
that would have otherwise been necessary. Dr. Bettelheim
says he has never heard anybody say ''parapraxis,'' which
is odd, since I hear the word often and use it myself.
It might be thought of as Strachey's little contribution
to the tradition of classical culture in which Dr. Bettelheim
wishes we were educated. But such praise is not to be
expected here. Strachey is even blamed for translating
''Versprechen'' as ''slips of the tongue,'' though it
is an expression far older than Freud and an exact equivalent
of the Latin ''lapsus linguae,'' which Freud himself could
have used. Dr. Bettelheim says fancifully that Strachey
was making the tongue responsible for the error, which
is simply to misread the idiom.
often his notion of the range of senses of an English
word seems to have been determined by looking it up in
a short dictionary. He supposes, for instance, that ''anatomy''
(used to translate ''Zerlegung'') has no use outside the
biological sciences and must reflect a predilection for
medical terms. Ignoring the complex history of the word
''association'' in English philosophy and poetry, he declares
that it must refer to ''a conscious process, deliberately
engaged in,'' so that ''free association'' is a false
translation of ''Einfall.'' And so on.
the substance of Dr. Bettelheim's complaint is suggested
by his book's title. Freud used the word ''Seele'' very
freely: ''A dream is the result of the activity of our
own soul''; ''the structure of the soul''; ''the life
of the soul.'' Strachey avoided the word, always translating
it as ''mind'' and ''Seelische'' as ''mental.'' He must
have known that this was inaccurate; his problem, as usual,
was the different semantic range of the words ''Seele''
and ''soul.'' It would be disastrous to say in English
''psychoanalysis is a part of psychology which is dedicated
to the science of the soul''; Strachey said ''part of
the mental science of psychology,'' which is bad but lacks
the religious, or religiose, overtones of the more literal
version. Perhaps he should have used ''psyche'' and ''psychic,''
but there are obvious dangers in those words too. Dr.
Bettelheim's observations are here more justifiable, but
perhaps he should address his complaints to Babel rather
than to Strachey; some of these problems are inherent
in the diversity of languages and cultures.
same may be said of his strictures on the words ''ego,''
''id'' and ''superego.'' The true equivalents of Freud's
''Ich,'' ''Es'' and ''Uber-Ich'' are ''I,'' ''it'' and
''over-I'' or ''upper-I.'' Dr. Bettelheim points out that
in German the word for child is neuter (''das Kind''),
so that children are used to being referred to as ''it''
during their earliest years; consequently, Germans would
be comfortable with a neuter word for aggressive and asocial
impulses. But if Strachey had decided against his Latin
technicalities and used ''it,'' he could not in any case
have saved that important childhood association. When
Georg Groddeck's translator translates ''Es'' as ''it,''
we find it no less odd, I think. And we should surely
be glad not to have to talk about the ''upper-I.'' Moreover,
''ego'' has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy,
a use quite independent of the pejorative senses Dr. Bettelheim
takes to be unavoidable.
of this means that Dr. Bettelheim is wrong in claiming
that it would be better to read Freud in German, and better
still to do so in Vienna, and best of all to do so 60
years ago. It is salutary to have instruction in what
we have lost. But on the evidence here presented, he has
treated rather harshly a huge labor of translation, carried
out with devotion and skill, and has unfairly visited
the failings of American psychoanalytic practice on that
translation. When that is said, we can sympathize very
sincerely with this remarkable man as he looks back after
a lifetime of achievement in an alien culture and an alien
language to the happiness and security of the Gymnasium,
the city and the language of his youth.