Andrew Nagorski spikes his thriller with truly terrifying notes...Shortly before the dash for freedom, two of Freud’s children, Anna and Martin, were questioned by the Gestapo...They had taken the precaution of asking Schur for a deadly barbiturate to take if torture ensued...Moreover, four of Freud’s elderly sisters stayed in Austria; three perished in Treblinka, while the fourth starved to death...At the end of this otherwise excellent book we are still left pondering how Freud himself, whose work was all about facing up to the unpleasant realities of human life, could carry on believing for so long that he alone could give History the slip...A gripping account of how colleagues and admirers spirited the psychoanalyst from Nazi-controlled Vienna to London.
... excellent ... Nagorski mixes the pacing of a historical thriller (think Alan Furst, but nonfiction, and starring therapists instead of spies) with a meditation on the limits of insight and what it means to be attached to a specific place and to live in a given moment in time. He shows Freud—and, more crucially, those around him—navigating the gaps between abstract awareness of danger and personal decisiveness, against the backdrop of historical events unfolding in real time. The result is hard to put down, poignant, and distressingly timely. Because if Freud himself, so attuned to the dark undercurrents of human behavior and so critical of the false security offered by our wishful illusions, proved unable to think clearly even as his country became unrecognizable around him and as nightmare after nightmare became real, what are our chances now? ... Nagorski keeps the pacing tight and, without spoiling too much, narrates moments rich in incident and detail.
Saving Freud is not an original book; pretty much everything in it is already well known and documented elsewhere. But the conceit of the book, which is a kind of group biography of the people who helped 'save' Freud from the Nazis, is a strong one ... Each of the early chapters takes one of these figures and describes their links with Freud, pointing forwards to the day when they would act on his behalf; and all the portraits are well drawn. The book is lively and the story well told ... At the end of it, Freud himself, who stirred and still stirs such strong emotions not only in those who knew him personally but in those for whom he is only a name, comes alive again through the eyes of people who cared deeply that he should survive ... This is probably the book’s main achievement: that in a time in which the standing and integrity of psychoanalysis continues to be questioned, it manages to show the extent to which people were entranced by Freud, how much this led some of them to love him, and how in doing so they revealed the deep ethical core of his person and his ideas.