ML - Boston Common

2013 - Issue 3 - Summer

Boston Common - Niche Media - A side of Boston that's anything but common.

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BIBLIO-FILE schadenfreud A NEW NOVEL PLUMBS THE SECRETS OF THE GRANDDADDY OF PSYCHOLOGY. BY JENNIFER DEMERITT T 62 ABOVE: Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack have teamed up once again, this time tackling Freud. LEFT: The new novel is based on the true story of Sigmund Freud's affair with his sister-in-law. screwed. She either had to work as a governess or live with her relatives. She had no options and no money, and she moved in with her sister because her sister gave her a safe haven. The setup for this book was that Minna walks into [Sigmund and Martha Freud's] household, gets attached to her sister's children, and ends up usurping her entire life. In the beginning, the book reads like a historical romance novel, and then it gets much darker. By the end, it seems like a feminist critique of Freud's work as a psychologist. Was that your intention? KM: As we were researching Freud, the man himself came forward, and he was this seductive, narcissistic genius, so you have to build the story toward that personality.... But along with that, his feelings about women and how he treated women—we had to put that in, because it was just hard to ignore. Do you think the affair has any bearing on Freud's work or his legacy? KM: Yes. I think it sheds light on Freud's work and some of his most famous assertions: "Passion and marriage cannot coexist," and "Guilt—you don't need to suffer it unless you choose to." It was all written while he was having a scandalous affair with his sister-in-law. JK: With other huge geniuses who affected society and culture, there's a ravenous interest in their personal lives. But there has been so little written about Freud's personal life. Even when historians were confronted with [rumors about the affair], they would say, "Why? Why do you need it?" And this is one of the few historical figures where you get this—that his work had nothing to do with his private life. I find that so very provocative. That's one of the reasons why we did the book. Why not talk about his personal life? BC PHOTOGRAPHY BY FIROOZ ZAHEDI he latest novel by coauthors Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman takes aim at a question that has intrigued psychologists for a century: Did Sigmund Freud have an affair with his sister-in-law? Minna Bernays lived with Freud and his wife, Martha (who happened to be her sister), from around age 30 until her death decades later. There were rumors about their affair (propagated by Freud's protégé Carl Jung, among others), but no solid proof until 2006, when a German sociologist discovered the registry log from a Swiss hotel where they signed in as "Dr. Sigmund Freud and wife" for a luxe room with one double bed. Inspired by this smoking gun, Mack and Kaufman penned the novel Freud's Mistress, which hits bookstores this summer. It presents a vivid fictional account of the affair, set amidst a meticulously researched account of fin-de-siècle Vienna, including the sexual politics that would drive an educated, independent woman like Bernays into such a compromising relationship, as well as the intellectual trends that shaped Freud's work. It is the first foray into historical fiction for Mack and Kaufman, who both have strong ties to Boston. They previously collaborated on a column for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and after that they wrote two novels together (their first, Literacy and Longing in L.A., was a best seller). With Freud's Mistress, they hope to tap into the fascination that surrounds the personal lives of cultural giants such as Freud. How did you research this subject? Karen Mack: We spent three years researching the book. We were meticulous about the accuracy of the details, from Freud's cocaine use to [his wife] Martha's arm paralysis to the way his desk looked, and especially the political and social milieu in which they lived. We created what we believe to be the relationship, but everything surrounding it is factual. Jennifer Kaufman: The big challenge with this book was making the research organic to the story. How can we write it so it all flows together and it doesn't sound like research? What was your take on Minna Bernays as an actual person? KM: Like all the women [of her era] who were single, she was kind of BOSTONCOMMON-MAGAZINE.COM 062_BC_SP_ThoughtLeader_Sum13.indd 62 6/7/13 1:28 PM

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