When Hitler invaded Vienna in the winter of 1938, Sigmund Freud, old and desperately ill, was among the city's 175,000 Jews dreading Nazi occupation. The Nazis hated Sigmund Freud with a particular vehemence: they detested his 'soul-destroying glorification of the instinctual life'. Here Mark Edmundson traces Hitler and Freud's oddly converging lives, then zeroes in on the last two years of Freud's life, during which, with the help of Marie Bonaparte, he was at last rescued from Vienna and brought safely to London, where he was honoured and feted as he ever had been during his long, controversial life.Staring down certain death, Freud, in typical fashion, does not enjoy his fame but instead writes his most provocative book yet, "Moses and Monotheism", in which he debunks all monotheistic religions and questions the legacy of the great Jewish leader, Moses. Edmundson probes Freud's ideas about secular death, and also about the rise of fascism and fundamentalism, and finally grapples with the demise of psychoanalysis after Freud's death, when religious fundamentalism is once again shaping world events.
Mark Edmundson is a professor of English at the University of Virginia. A prizewinning scholar, he has published a number of works of literary and cultural criticism, including Literature Against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida, and Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference. He has also written for such publications as the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, the Nation, and Harper's, where he is a contributing editor.