a sort of wisdom


A month after he had fled Nazi-occupied Vienna and settled safely in London, Sigmund Freud had an unwelcome encounter with Salvador Dali. Escorted by Freud’s friend Stefan Zweig, Dali visited the frail psychoanalyst in his new home and harangued him on the subject of ‘an ambitiously scientific article’ that he – Dali – had written on paranoia. At first stonily indifferent, Freud muttered to Zweig: ‘What a fanatic!’ But then Freud made a characteristically double-edged observation: ‘In classic paintings I look for the subconscious, in surrealist paintings for the conscious.’ Probably correctly, Dali interpreted this dictum as ‘a death-sentence on surrealism’.

However Freud may have meant it at the time, it is a comment that illustrates a neglected side of him. While he is rightly remembered for revealing the power of the unconscious in human life, Freud was always on the side of the conscious self.

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