Discussion → Frank Kermode on Bettelheim & Freud

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    Ann Bogle
    Feb 26, 12:08pm

    Frank Kermode on translating Freud: "But 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.'"


    An excerpt:

    "In 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.

    "He insists that Freud was always trying to avoid technical words, so that it is a distortion to make him sound technical in a translation."

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    Ann Bogle
    Feb 26, 01:47pm

    My statement at Fb where I shared this link:

    "I feel the last paragraph is designed to throw off Bettelheim's and Kermode's own detractors in American psychiatry. Let it all hang out, if that is what the Americans derived from Freud, would do us all good today, on or off the couch. The seventies were better than the miserable categorization of secular liberals as diagnosed in the workplace in seeking a minority it can scapegoat. The word 'mental' alone might not have served a mind-body disability split, and we would speak of soul as Freud wrote it."

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    Ann Bogle
    Feb 26, 08:50pm

    Linguistic approach to Freud and translation of Freud interest me. Bettelheim does not interest me. I was warned at Fb that Bettelheim's career was fraudulent and his treatment of children at the Orthogenic school in Chicago endangered them.

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    Gloria Garfunkel
    Feb 27, 11:48am

    I believe that Freud's message was self-understanding, not necessarily letting it all hang out as as in acting out. But, yes, Bettleheim was the worst kind of intellectual fraud who preyed on children. I threw out all his books.

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    Ann Bogle
    Feb 27, 10:02pm

    Thanks, Gloria, I had hoped you might read and comment.

    More, digging in, seeking (suchen)(zukhn):


    "Events leading up to the past German lawsuit were premised on claims that the 1996 and 1983 German translations of the [A.A.] Big Book excluded words denoting 'spiritual' and instead used words meaning 'psychological' or 'intellectual.'”

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    Ann Bogle
    Mar 16, 12:10am

    From my comment today at Marcus Speh's Jonah Lehrer thread in the General Forum:

    … Frank Kermode described translation of words such as "cathexis" twice, differently in his first-published and collected writings of 1986, 1989, and 1991. (The first appearance of "The Plain Sense of Things" in 1986, Midrash and Literature, Yale University Press, follows the first appearance of "Freud is Better in German" in the New York Times in 1983.)

    Self-requite may work for love without retaliation.

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    Ann Bogle
    Mar 16, 02:16am

    Differently phrased, not meaning rephrased, except perhaps as he considered his audience.

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