Freud’s Mis­tress

Karen Mack and Jen­nifer Kaufman
  • Review
By – August 6, 2013

Karen Mack and Jen­nifer Kaufman’s third nov­el, Freud’s Mis­tress, is a fic­tion­al account of Freud and his fam­i­ly. It is a re-cre­ation of a very pos­si­ble love affair between Sig­mund Freud and his sis­ter-in-law, Min­na Bernays. Beyond the affair, the authors have also inter­twined facts about Freud’s life and theories.

Min­na and her sis­ter, Martha, Freud’s wife, were descen­dants of Rab­bi Isaac Ben Jacob Bernays, who believed that Jews should be open to and learn from the sci­ences. How iron­ic that they both had inti­mate rela­tion­ships with Sig­mund Freud, whom the authors describe as cul­tur­al­ly and emo­tion­al­ly Jew­ish, but thought reli­gion ridicu­lous. Even though the sis­ters were raised as Ortho­dox Jews, and Freud’s fam­i­ly was Ortho­dox, he refused to let the fam­i­ly cel­e­brate Shab­bat. He spoke a mil­lion lan­guages, but Hebrew was not one of them.”

Freud’s Jew­ish­ness was an enig­ma with regard to his rela­tion­ships, per­son­al­i­ty, and the­o­ries. Despite his sec­u­lar cel­e­bra­tion of Christ­mas and East­er, he nev­er denied his Jew­ish­ness dur­ing his rise to fame; in fact, the authors point out that he wrote arti­cles dis­cussing what made a Jew a Jew. Most of Freud’s clients were upper class Jew­ish women, whom he cul­ti­vat­ed dur­ing his lec­tures to var­i­ous Jew­ish groups.

The impact of anti-Semi­tism on Vienna’s Jews is an impor­tant theme in the book, which ends with the family’s escape from the Nazis. There are also descrip­tive scenes of anti-Semit­ic acts toward Freud’s chil­dren after Karl Lueger, leader of the Aus­tri­an Chris­t­ian Social­ist Part, became may­or of Vienna.

The authors point out that Freud, like many Jews at the time, refused to believe that the Aus­tri­ans would turn on them so vicious­ly. They note, We tried to point out that he had many oppor­tu­ni­ties to get out, but it was only after his daugh­ter Anna was arrest­ed by the Gestapo that he decid­ed to leave. He was only able to escape with the help of high­ly placed friends and officials.”

Ulti­mate­ly Freud’s Mis­tress is an insight­ful sto­ry about Min­na, an inde­pen­dent Vien­nese Jew­ish woman, and an infor­ma­tive look at the dif­fi­cul­ties Freud faced due to the unique­ness of his ideas, his per­son­al­i­ty, and the cul­tur­al con­di­tions in the late nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, includ­ing the per­va­sive anti-Semit­ic atmosphere.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

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