Review: Malcolm’s In the Freud Archives

In the Freud Archives (New York Review Books Classics)

Janet Malcolm

An early Janet Malcolm book on the infighting among a group of scholars associated with the Freud Archives. This is a classic example of how a great journalist can turn a subject matter I care nothing about into a gripping read by finding the right characters. Here we have the patrician elder, K. R. Eissler, who falls for, and is then betrayed (or is he?) by the mecurial student, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. Adding spice is the obsessed amateur scholar (always dear to my heart), Peter Swales, and a score of other eccentrics. Malcolm tells their story of with her usual precision and cutting understatement. Malcolm can cut through someone’s bullshit in a simple four word sentence. It’s a skill I deeply admire. If I could write half as good, I’d be ecstatic – this is journalistic writing in its highest form.

Fascinating, even if you don’t care about Freud.