An Interview with Mark Solms
At some point over the next two or three years, Freud studies will gain fresh life with the publication of the long-awaited revisions to James Strachey's 24-volume The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. This enterprise, so close to the heart of psychoanalysis as a clinical method, a secular mythology, and a tool for academic analysis, has been entrusted to Mark Solms, a founding figure of neuro-psychoanalysis and the co-director of the International Centre for Neuro-Psychoanalysis.
Neuro-psychoanalysis claims to offer a kind of psychological grand unified theory: by correlating neurological insights into the structure and function of the brain with psychoanalysis's attentive observation of subjectivity, neuro-psychoanalysis ought to be able to avoid, on the one hand, the mechanistic reduction of mental life sometimes associated with neuroscience, and, on the other, the mystical preference for theory over scientific fact sometimes characteristic of psychoanalysis.
Dr. Solms is the author of numerous books and articles on psychoanalysis, clinical neuropsychology, and the neurology of dreaming; key titles include, with Karen Kaplan-Solms, Clinical Studies in Neuro-Psychoanalysis: Introduction to a Depth Neuropsychology (2001), and, with Oliver Turnbull, The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. He is also translating the four-volume Complete Neuroscientific Papers of Sigmund Freud, as well as completing the long-awaited revision to James Strachey's translation of the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.
In the wide-ranging interview below, Dr. Solms introduces the concept of neuro-psychoanalysis, highlighting its differences from other popular models within neuroscience and psychology, and explains what contemporary neuroscience has to offer psychoanalysis. He also previews the forthcoming revised translation, explaining its origin, new material that's come to light, copyright entanglements, as well as key revisions. With wit and didactic clarity, he explains why Freud still matters, and how it might still be possible to speak scientifically about psychoanalysis.
I wonder if you mind just giving a very brief overview of the concept of neuro-psychoanalysis, for readers who might not already be familiar with it.
Neuro-psychoanalysis arises out of the belief that the theoretical models we construct in psychoanalysis from our observations of the subjective life of the mind, that those models describe a thing, which must be the same thing that neuroscientists are attempting to study when they derive models of the mental apparatus from their neuroscientific observations. In other words, neuro-psychoanalysis exists because we believe that there's only one thing called the human mind, which we're studying from these two different points of view. And if that assumption is valid, then it sort of necessarily implies that we have everything to gain and little to lose by trying to combine our different findings in order to correct viewpoint-dependent errors and arrive at a more satisfactory account of how the mind works.
Is there an advantage that you get by retaining the term psychoanalysis and the connection to Freud? I mean, from a certain point of view, that just irritates some people, right? Freud's very controversial...
I think, as Freud himself once said, you make concessions as regards words, and then very quickly you'll be making concessions as regards things, and you're on a slippery slope. I'm well aware of the controversies surrounding psychoanalysis and of the baggage that comes with that word. But I think that I would be dishonest if I was not to stick to my belief that [it is] the most highly articulated methodological and theoretical approach that we have to the study of the mind from a subjective point of view -- in other words, studying the mind as a mental thing, on its own terms -- that psychoanalysis, for all of its faults (and I am the first to admit that it has plenty of faults), that psychoanalysis has nevertheless done more than any other approach to develop that point of view. And so I think that if we are going to start from where psychoanalysis leaves off, then we are not being honest if we don't call what we're doing psychoanalysis, even if it becomes something rather different in the years to come.
Like all innovators in psychoanalysis, you ground your work so much in Freud himself. In The Brain and the Inner World, in Clinical Studies in Neuro-Psychoanalysis, there's not a whole lot of reference to other, later schools in psychoanalysis, and I wondered if you have any comments on whether other schools have been congenial or useful to you. Whether it's Kleinian, or Anna-Freudian, or Lacanian, or anything else.
As a psychoanalyst, having trained in Britain, it's very hard to not learn a great deal of what follows from Freud, particularly in the Kleinian tradition, and in my work as a psychoanalyst, I rely on all manner of theoretical developments post-Freud. The reason I focus so strongly on Freud, however, in my neuro-psychoanalytical work is because it's a very complicated task to try and link psychoanalytical concepts with neuroscientific ones. To start with the most rudimentary, the most basic concepts, simplifies the task, and that's a first step. And I think once we've been able to ascertain the neural correlates of our most elementary psychoanalytic concepts, that is to say Freudian concepts, then we have a bedrock upon which we can build more elaborated psychoanalytical models into this correlative effort. But I think that we do need to start with one particular model, because there are such a plethora of mutually incompatible, in many respects, psychoanalytical models these days. Since you have to choose one, I think choosing the one from which they are all ultimately derivative, and therefore choosing the simplest one, is therefore the right place to start. But it really is a start, it's not meant to be any kind of right-wing Freudian project that refuses everything that came after.
Can you talk about what differentiates neuro-psychoanalysis from things like so-called evolutionary psychology, or theories of mind that move straight to chemistry, or others that seem popular in the news these days?
What differentiates neuro-psychoanalysis from those approaches has everything to do with what I said in relation to your second question, when you said, "why call it neuro-psychoanalysis? Psychoanalysis comes with all sorts of baggage," and I said, "yes, but what we are trying to do is to integrate, to bring together, the subjective perspective on the mind with the objective, external perspective." Psychoanalysis, far more than any other school of psychology, has elaborated methods and theories about the subjective. It has a whole conceptual vocabulary derived from a very sophisticated methodology, which treats subjective experience as an object in its own right worthy of study. Evolutionary psychology also tries to understand something of the biological basis of or correlates of the mind and of behavior, but it doesn't give privileged place to subjective experience and the study of the human subject. In fact, evolutionary psychology gives privileged place, if I may say so, to a sort of speculation, and doesn't seem to have a hell of a lot of observation of any kind. What we're wanting to stick to is the observation of the mind from the point of view of inner life, of subjective experience.
The other approaches that you allude to when you say something like, "what about those approaches that just go straight from mind to neural mechanism," I think that's precisely what's wrong with cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. They have such absurdly simplistic conceptions of psychology, and want to immediately jump to anatomical and physiological levels of explanation, thereby depriving themselves of everything they could learn about this thing called the mind from the point of view of experience. I don't think that the mind has an experiential aspect -- I don't think that the brain, if you will, has a subjective aspect -- for nothing. I think that it reflects something about how this part of nature works, which is different from any other part of nature. And if you don't avail yourself of all that can be learned from that point of view, you really are going to miss half the picture.
In the American media, at least, there's this tendency to promote the idea that genetics or neurology, or what have you, is destiny. So, if there's a gay gene, then that's supposed to tell us something about the child's identity; likewise, there have been news stories recently about neurological evidence being introduced in criminal trials, for example, such that, "this brain scan shows that this person has absolutely no control over his sociopathic impulses." And so the question I wanted to pose to you is: whether anatomy -- on that model, the claim is that anatomy, or neuro-anatomy, really is destiny?
There are two levels to what you're saying and I'll address them separately. The one is the genetic question, and the other is the anatomy question. Anatomy and genetics are two different levels of the physiological and bodily approach. They are connected, I think, in a really meaningful way, which is the crux of how I would like to answer that question.
You know, people have a real misunderstanding of how genetics works when they treat genetic modes of explanation as if genes involve something independent of the experiential world, something independent of the lived life. Genes simply don't work that way. Genes are not templates for your life, which contain in some kind of microscopic miniature the whole of your future which only has to unfold. Genes just don't work that way. Genes contain within them all manner of potentials, which then needs to be activated, and the penetrants of a gene, the expression of a gene, has everything to do with what that genetic mechanism finds itself -- with what environment it finds itself in. Genetic explanations have to be epigenetic explanations, which is to say that genetic explanations can only be explanations which articulate how a particular genetic potential was activated by a particular environmental circumstance. That is how genes work. People are quite wrong in thinking of this kind of linear causality, this predetermined destiny that they seem to think is how genes operate.
To move to the anatomical level, and then you'll see in a minute why I think the link between the two is the crux of the answer to your question: at the anatomical level of explanation, when you refer to this perspective of anatomy being destiny -- people who hold that view must take into account the fact that neuro-anatomy is radically different from the anatomy of every other bodily organ or organ system. What is distinctive about neural tissue is that it doesn’t just mature and unfold, that this is the way these cells are going to be connected and it's kind of predetermined. Neural tissue's most distinguishing feature in relation to other tissues is that its connectivity is dependent upon experience. That is, the connections between neurons are a record of the activities of those neurons, which are in turn a record of what has happened to you. Your neurons are activity-dependent: if you don't activate a certain connection between neurons, then that connection simply atrophies and withers away. If you do activate that connection, then it strengthens and new neural tissue grows. Neural tissue grows in response to the environment, so that your brain is a unique record of your life experience. So to say that anatomy is destiny, when referring to neural tissue, is simply to say that you are an expression of your past. The link between the two comes down to the fact that these genes in our neurons are activated by the firing of those neurons, which are in turn responsive to environmental happenings. So that is why I say that epigenetics is the only way to think of genetic lines of explanation. These tabloid headlines of gay genes and criminal genes and god knows what is based on a gross misunderstanding of how these things really work. It's very much more complicated than that and the crux of the matter is that genes and environment work together always.
When you read a book like The Brain and the Inner World, or the Clinical Studies book, one thing that jumps out is that, relative to a popular understanding of psychoanalysis, one thing that you notice is how infrequently topics like sexual difference, or the various florid vicissitudes of sexual instinct and perversion come up. That is, the books focus to a degree on development, but also emphasize topics like aphasia, and memory, and things of that nature. The question I want to ask is: what's neuro-psychoanalysis without sex?
Let me take the two books separately, starting with Clinical Studies in Neuro-Psychoanalysis. This book is primarily a series of case studies of patients with damage to particular parts of the brain, and looking psychoanalytically at how these lesions affect the operations of their minds. The bias in that book toward cortical operations, that is to say the cognitive aspect, the ego aspect, of the mind, reflects the general bias in fact in the whole neuro-psychological field, which for the 150 years of its existence has focused on so-called higher cortical functions, very much at the expense of lower, epi-limbic and brainstem functions. And this is a reflection of the fact, first of all, that the cortical, the forebrain components of the brain, are so much larger. They necessarily are going to be the part that's easier to study and that's also where most of the lesions are, it's where most of the damage is. Secondly, as the damage gets deeper, towards these more vital, these life-sustaining structures, that is to say, toward the drive end of the mind, as opposed to the ego end, the part representing the inner biological life as opposed to the outer, environmental world, to that extent you start to get patients who, if they're alive at all, are really very ill, and very far removed from being able to interact with a psychoanalyst. Consciousness is deeply impaired, and so on. I think that we have to recognize that this is an artificial state of affairs. The fact that it's easier to study the higher aspects doesn't mean that the higher aspects are more important or that we shouldn't go out of our way to rectify that bias. And there has been an effort in recent years in the neuro-sciences to do just that, and so there's this developing field of affective neuroscience that's meant to complement and extend and correct the perspectives of cognitive neuroscience.
Now, if you turn to the other book, The Brain and the Inner World, we do try to redress that imbalance in that book. There's a chapter on emotion and motivation which goes some way toward elaborating what we understand today by the brain mechanisms of drive and of instinct. And there's a chapter on genetic and environmental contributions to mental development, where we use the example of sex differences and topics like sexual identity and sexual orientation, in order to make these points about genetic versus environmental influences. The bottom line is that there really is a great deal to be learned from the neurosciences in this day and age, which is highly relevant to our understanding of sexuality, instinct and drive. And to the extent that the early years of neuro-psychoanalysis have not properly accommodated that, to that extent we have to correct the bias.
Fair enough. The question was a bit light-hearted, but this is the way people come to psychoanalysis -- when you read something like the Three Essays, you get this long list of train wrecks of sexuality and it's kind of what people associate with it. But I didn't mean to imply...
But you know, the biological approach, I mean, neuro-psychoanalysis must surely bring more of the biological approach to bear than a more kind of cognitive psychoanalysis. It will be the case that the biological, animalistic, instinctual, sexual side of the mind will be particularly elucidated, should be particularly elucidated, as we proceed with the neuro-psychoanalytical developments.
Is there a clinical aim to neuro-psychoanalysis? Or is it largely at the level of metapsychology and this kind of research agenda of reconciling the two fields?
There are two clinical aims to neuro-psychoanalysis. The one is probably far removed from what you have in mind when you asked the question. And that is that patients with neurological lesions or neurological disorders or so-called chemical imbalances which begin to entrench on the field of biological psychiatry -- these patients need also to be understood psychologically. If you accept the premise that I mentioned at the outset, that the brain and the mind are the same thing, then a patient with a brain disorder will necessarily have a mind disorder, and these two things, the one should never take precedence over the other from the point of view of the subject, that is to say the person who has the brain injury or dare I say a chemical imbalance. That person is experiencing something that they're struggling with while being in the world, and a psychoanalytical approach is therefore called for. It's amazing how neurological patients are utterly neglected by psychotherapists and psychoanalysts, because they're relegated to the realm of physical medicine. And the brain simply -- it just doesn't make sense to say that because the brain is disordered in this patient, that therefore it's the body that's disordered, that therefore we don't treat them. I think part of neuro-psychoanalysis is to try to bring to bear on neurological disorders a psychoanalytical approach because these patients need it: their minds are shattered, their lives are upside down, and they certainly can benefit from psychoanalysis to one or another degree, the same way that any other human soul can.
But more to the point of your question, as regards psychoanalytical therapy in the more conventional sense of the word, I think that we have to remember that our therapeutic procedures in psychoanalysis derive from a theory of how the mind works. They only make sense, what we do technically as psychoanalysts, only makes sense in relation to a model of normal mind and what has gone wrong in the various pathologies we seek to treat. To the extent that our model of the mind and its disorders is wrong, to that extent our therapeutic techniques are going to be misguided. So I think that it's, although understandable, it's nevertheless a false dichotomy to speak of metapsychology as opposed to clinical work. Clinical work derives from metapsychology, and anything that we can do to advance our theory of how the mind works and what goes wrong in the various disorders we treat in psychoanalysis, anything we learn in that direction, can only be to the benefit of technique.
For example, and I can only give small examples, because at this stage I don't think that we understand enough of the neural correlates of our psychoanalytical model to be going so far as to be recommending changes in technique, but I think there are little examples, like what we understand of the brain mechanisms of infantile amnesia. We know, and really more or less without the shadow of a doubt, that it is not possible in the first two to three years of life to lay down a memory in the form that we call episodic in neuropsychology, that is to say, "I was there, this is what happened, and it felt like that." That kind of memory, of an experience of something happening to me, cannot be laid down in those first few years. So any therapeutic effort which would be directed toward trying to get the patient to recover a reminiscence of those first few years is an absolutely futile effort, if not a persecutory one. Likewise with certain traumatic amnesias. The hippocampus, just as it is unavailable, simply not functioning in the first few years of life, in certain traumatic conditions, and I certainly do not mean by any means all of them, but in certain traumatic conditions, the hippocampus is simply deactivated, it's simply nullified. Therefore, memories of the kind, "I was there, it felt like this, it happened to me" cannot be laid down. Again, our technique would have to take account of that -- that in those sorts of patients, to try to get them to recover a memory that we assume on the basis of theory is being withheld from consciousness for dynamic affective reasons, is simply wrong. It's not being withheld: it doesn't exist in that form, and all we can ever do is reconstruct it from other forms of memory, like the bodily procedural method and the semantic types of unconscious memory.
Those are tiny examples and I don't want to overstate them, I just use them as illustrations of the theoretical point that I'm making, which is that what we do technically does change depending on what our model of what is going on metapsychologically. And if I may add one last point in that connection: in dream interpretation, I think that there are many psychoanalysts who lost confidence in the idea that behind the manifest content of the dream there's a latent content which is somehow closer to the repressed unconscious than our normal waking cognition, and that this repressed unconscious material, brought to the fore in dreams, is of a wishful kind, at least in its primary form. I think that the interpretation of dreams, having this kind of model in mind, will necessarily follow different lines, the whole way we listen to our patients' associations will be different if we have a model in mind of that kind, that says behind the patients' associations I'm going to find the libidinal wish. As we lost our confidence in that model of dreaming, so dream interpretation clinically took on all kinds of different roles. I think that, as we've learned in recent years, that dreams probably do function in the way that our most old-fashioned model in psychoanalysis suggests, I think that so we might be inclined to revert more to a classical technique of dream interpretation. That's another example, though going in the other direction: that we might not move away from a tried and tested belief system leading to certain technical procedures, but in this instance, how in fact we might regain more confidence in a tried and tested analytical technique.
If we can shift gears a bit, and talk a bit about the translation project: To begin with, in the broadest possible way, what are the key limitations of Strachey's translation? Why do we need a new Freud?
It may surprise you to hear that I do not believe we need a new Freud! The limitations of Strachey's translation are the limitations of translation itself. Most of the criticisms directed toward the Strachey translation are criticisms of a kind that no translator can escape, in one way or another. The two languages are simply different. No two languages have direct equivalents in terms of denotation, let alone connotation. When you translate from one language into another, something will be lost. Either something will be lost in the form of, you can stick as literally and as closely as possible to the language you're translating from, and produce a clumsy and awkward translation in the language you're translating into; or you can stick with the language you're translating into, with all of its conventions, and then you're going to lose something in terms of the literal accuracy. Strachey did the second. Strachey, in his preface, said, "I am imagining Freud as an English gentleman of science, of wide education, born in the middle of the nineteenth century." He has turned Freud into an English man of science. I think that there are distortions that come with that which are inherent in that approach to translation. But if he were to take the alternative approach, which is to say, "I am going to remember that Freud was a German-speaking man of science and the humanities of this particular era, and I am going to translate him as if I were writing for German speakers," then the English-speaking reader wouldn't recognize this as something that they are familiar with. The main criticism, or one of the two main criticisms, of Strachey, is that when the English-speaking reader reads Strachey's translation, he or she doesn't have this immediate understanding that the German-speaking reader has when reading Freud in German, because of the everyday descriptive language. But that loss is inevitable. It's in the nature of translation that you can't evoke the imagery for a second language reader that the first language evoked for a reader reading in the same language that the writer intended.
I really do think that Strachey translated Freud as if Freud were an English equivalent to what he was, in the time that he wrote. With that comes, first of all, the loss of concrete, direct, literal translations from the German. He's not doing that -- he's producing an English equivalent in the idiom of English writing. Secondly, remember he says that he's imagining Freud as an English gentleman of science of that era. The conventions of German scientific writing and of English scientific writing are different, particularly in this matter of descriptive, everyday terminology. In German neuroscience, we use descriptive, everyday terminology for anatomical structures. Whereas in English neuroscience, we use Latin terms. It's conventional in English neuroscience to use this abstract, dead language; it's not conventional in German.
So, if Strachey's Freud is an English gentleman of science, born in the middle of the 19th century, who's your Freud?
My Freud is the same as Strachey's Freud. I think that the best that we can do is make the reader more aware of the price that's paid in translation. I don't think that we can get away from paying that price. It simply has to be paid; as I said, it's one price or the other. The best we can do is to recognize the limits of translation itself and make the reader aware. The sorts of thing that I've done are: first of all, what I've done is added new Freud material that's come to light since the Standard Edition, and there's a surprisingly large amount of Freud material, some of it very interesting, that's come to light since the Standard Edition. Second, what I've done is I've corrected errors. That is to say, where Strachey has left out a whole sentence or a whole paragraph -- and it happens amazingly -- also where he's left out clauses or where he's misread a German word in the Gothic script which he wasn't very familiar with. Those are unequivocal errors and I correct them. The border of error is reached in the translation of the German term, Trieb. To translate that as "instinct" is in my view an error. There is no debating it. There is a German word for "instinct" (Instinckt), which is different in its meaning entirely from the German word Trieb. And Trieb is the direct equivalent of what we call "drive" in English. And I think that Strachey was partly laboring there under a lack of biological knowledge, but partly also under the influence of the lack of clarity of the methodology and knowledge of these matters in the 1950s and 1960s. I think that, to a reader in this day and age, an English-speaking reader, "drive" and "instinct" -- those two words are utterly different things, and they refer to two very different German things. So I've corrected the translation of the word Trieb under the heading of, "I'm fixing up the errors." But when it comes to matters of controversy surrounding matters of interpretation, of how the different ways that one might have translated a particular term or a particular title of a particular paper or a particular turn of phrase -- there, I don't think, as I said to you at the outset -- I don't think there's a "right way" to do it. There are several ways you can do it, and each one of those ways has a particular set of advantages and disadvantages. What I've done there is, I've created a sort of a glossary, for want of a better word, in the 24th volume, and I've put little endnotes (superscript letters) in the text, because I don't want to muck up the text with footnotes about translation which don't interest most people. I've put superscript letters to distinguish them from the superscript numbers which are the footnotes. And these letters refer to endnotes in the 24th volume, and the interested reader can then go there. There what I do is, first of all, is explain what the history is, as to why this has been translated the way that it has. Then I make the reader aware of the alternative renditions that have been suggested in the literature, and make no critical comment of my own. I just make them aware that these are the different views of the different commentators as to how this might have been translated differently.
But the question of the history is particularly important, because I think this is also frequently overlooked. People seem to think that Strachey's Standard Edition was the beginning of the translation of Freud into English, as if suddenly in the 1950s and '60s, Strachey sat down all by himself at his desk and decided, "let me translate Freud." In fact, Freud had been translated since the turn of the century already. And there was an established convention of how certain terms were translated, which Strachey had to take account of. Those conventions also reflect conventions of English translation before Freud. People who criticize the translation of words like Ich as ego, for example, they seem to not to understand that the word Ich, the use of the word Ich in German philosophical and psychological writings didn't begin with Freud! There's a long tradition of translating that term in English philosophy and psychology as ego. And so Strachey had to take account of these existing pre-psychoanalytical conventions. Then he had to take account of the conventions of translating Freud in the five decades preceding his Standard Edition, where already a certain technical vocabulary had become accepted within our discipline. And then, worse than that, he had to take into account the super-ego of Ernest Jones and his Glossary Committee that he'd set up, to persecute Strachey and make sure that he didn't deviate from what was considered to be appropriate translation. So I make the reader aware of that whole history, starting with conventional translations of this term in pre-psychoanalytical English translation, then conventions that have been established within the psychoanalytical movement prior to Strachey, and then the influence of Jones and his glossary committee at the time that he was making the translation. Just so the reader gets a better understanding of what the constraints were that determined the choices of terms.
Have you been given a "glossary committee" of any sort, or do you have a free hand?
(Laughs) No, there is no glossary committee. Thankfully, I've been spared that, but that's just about all I have been spared. Psychoanalytical institutes are hell, and I've had all sorts of pressures brought to bear on me by the Institute in London, ranging from the narcissism of certain individuals who want to make sure that their point of view is reflected and that they are made to seem as important as they feel themselves to be, through to all kind of legalistic and commercial considerations. The Institute, don't forget, is the co-publisher of this work. They want to ensure that they make some money out of it. The legal points have really been for me the worst of it. The copyright questions are... They can only be described as a minefield. And the Institute as publisher has had to protect itself in relation to this minefield, and so there have been enormous constraints on me.
I can imagine that's true -- copyright has been such a vexed issue over the last 20 or 30 years...
Yes. It was complicated at the outset, because Freud was quite liberal in granting translation rights, and didn't seem to think a great deal about the consequences of granting the English translation rights in England and America to different translators. But then the situation is complicated further by the fact that, in Europe, the different European countries had different copyright laws, which now have been homogenized in the European Union -- and that's had implications. And then there's the further fact that American copyright law is quite different from European copyright law, and so if you're trying to bring out an edition for the world market, you really have quite a juggling act on your hands.
There's also the fact that there was still the Freud copyright, and then there's the Strachey copyright. And then there's the copyright in the name of Angela Richards, Strachey's assistant. Strachey died before the Standard Edition came out, or at least before the final volumes came out, and so she has some copyright, or at least her estate has some aspects of the copyright in its own name. So, it's really been very complicated and very annoying.
Will the new edition reprint Strachey's introductions, or are you writing new introductions for all the pieces as well?
I'm not writing new introductions, but I am updating the existing introductions. That's one of the main shortcomings with the existing Standard Edition is that it was written 50 years ago. Freud scholarship at that point was really quite rudimentary and amateurish, and there's been something of an industry in Freud scholarship in the intervening 50 years. I've had to take account of all that in order to make the editorial apparatus sufficiently expert for the era that we're in now.
I suspect that you answered this before, but, for the purposes of clarity, you don't see this as a neuro-psychoanalytic translation -- that is, you see this as simply a revised translation, right?
The origin of my involvement was through neuro-psychoanalysis. I in fact started out translating Freud's neuroscientific writings. That was my point of entry into the matter of Freud translation. And it was only because I was engaged in that project that, when the Institute decided that they wanted to revise the Standard Edition, their eyes alighted on me as someone who was already grappling with the problem. But my Standard Edition translation has nothing whatever to do with neuro-psychoanalysis except as a historical starting point. Of course, I must point out that we are bringing out these four supplementary volumes, which are Freud's neuroscientific works, and in that very narrow and specific sense it is a neuro-psychoanalytical edition. They are completely independent projects, but they are meant to complement each other as well.
You had mentioned the commercial interests of the Institute, and so it may be the case that they have a different answer than you have, but do you have a particular audience in mind as you've gone about making the revisions? Are you particularly interested in clinicians, or are you trying to re-engage general readers of Freud?
No. As you say, the Institute does have commercial interests -- it's not that they have different commercial interests to me. They have commercial interests and I don't. I'm wanting to make a scholarly, a serious collection of Freud's psychological writing. The Institute's wanting to continue to make a profit out of the Standard Edition -- it's always been a major source of income to the Institute -- and I think that they see, correctly, a new edition as having renewed possibilities for increasing, at least in the short term, the income that they make out of their ownership of that edition. But I would be giving you the wrong impression if I were to create the view that the Institute is some sort of rapacious commercial publisher. It's not. The Institute is, after all, an institute of psychoanalysis, and does take very seriously its responsibility in terms of the legacy of Freud.
The Institute is interested in bringing out paperback editions, and that has caused all sorts of difficulties which I would rather have been spared as editor. The main issue there was that the old Standard Edition was licensed to Penguin -- Penguin was allowed to publish it in paperback. Penguin approached the Institute on hearing that there was going to be a revised Standard Edition, and asked for a new license in the revised translation. The Institute, I think largely, but not exclusively, for commercial reasons, refused to give them this extended license.
And so that's why they have the new translations headed by Adam Phillips...?
Yes! That was directly what led to the Adam Phillips series. The Institute wanted to publish its own paperback version of the Standard Edition, and so Penguin then used a loophole created by the transition from British copyright law to EU copyright law. The EU copyright expires in 2009. But because the British copyright in the old order would have expired in 1989, the EU had to take account of the fact that some publishing houses were working in good faith on translation projects which were predicated on the assumption that the material was about to go out of copyright. It would be quite unfair to those publishers to say, "sorry chaps, now you have to wait another 20 years and then you can release what you've been working on."
Let me just say that Penguin took advantage of that loophole, and said, or claimed, that they had been working on a new translation of Freud. Which there's good reason to doubt they were really doing. And they then set about producing under Adam Phillips's editorship this new Freud edition, which they then had to do in a hurry, because they knew we were about to bring out our edition, with a paperback version. And I honestly do believe that some of the editorial decisions taken by Adam Phillips and Penguin, which have in some sense been dressed up as decisions of editorial principle -- like, for example, the desire to have multiple translators -- might also have been influenced by the need to get the job done really quickly. One translator doing a completely new translation of all that material would have had to kill himself, as I am now.
Has anything surprised you about Freud? Has doing the revised translation significantly changed your impressions of Freud in any way?
It has. I don't know what qualifies as "significant," but to translate somebody, you have to really understand them. So I've read Freud more closely than I ever did before, and I dare say more closely than just about anybody else has bothered to do. Because in order to translate, you have to understand the intention that lies behind each and every sentence. So I think that I have a far deeper grasp of and appreciation of Freud's thinking than I had before.
In the more prosaic sense, what's surprised me has arisen more out of the new Freud material that we were not aware of at the time the Standard Edition was published. For example, there are three paragraphs in the postscript to "The Question of Lay Analysis" which were suppressed at the time of its original publication, where Freud goes absolutely berserk in a critique of America in general and American psychoanalysis in particular. It's really quite breathtaking to read. There's also a book that was written jointly by Freud and William C. Bullitt, the American ambassador to Austria and Russia around the time of the First World War, that we believed was really not Freud's work, and that Bullitt was misrepresenting the thing to claim that he and Freud were joint authors of that book. But we now have the manuscript, and it's clear that Freud did write a great deal more of that book than we would like to believe. And so that's been quite something to see -- there are two examples of surprises.
I hesitate to ask this last question, given the tale you tell of the legal entanglements and such of the book, but what's the status exactly -- or even approximately -- of the translation?
The Institute has been -- as someone involved in the literary world you will know that deadlines are always a bit of a nightmare to both publisher and author, but for different reasons and in different directions. The Institute has been, I think, quite unhappy with me not finishing it sooner. But... I've done my best. And I am now in the process of submitting it -- in fact I have submitted 17 volumes, and now over the next week submitting the remainder. But when I say "the remainder," I mean the remainder of the 23 volumes. I'm holding back volume 24 because it involves so much work of a kind that depends on the pagination of the page proofs, that I can't submit that yet. The proofs will be set for the first 23 volumes before the end of this year. Proofreading will presumably take a few months. Then I will complete -- I mean, it's not as if I haven't done any of volume 24, but I will be able to complete it, which includes an entirely new index and greatly revised bibliographies and so on. I would finish by, I would guess, the end of 2008. And so the middle of 2009 is when I think we'll see the thing on bookshelves.