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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

NYT: The Literary Freud

Published: July 13, 2003

Adam Phillips doesn't do e-mail. It's not clear whether this is a Luddite impulse, a shrewd maneuver designed to enhance his glamorously elusive aura or simply a pragmatic decision not to squander hours at the beck and call of everyone with a keyboard and a screen name. ''I don't want to be in touch,'' he explains. ''I want less communication.''

That may sound like a decidedly antisocial remark for a man who trades in human connectedness. But then Phillips, an idiosyncratic literary talent and the celebrated maverick of contemporary British psychoanalysis, is nothing if not defiantly self-contradictory. He has made his name by questioning the orthodoxies of hard-line Freudianism, yet his most recent role is general editor of the first major new Freud translation to appear in 30 years. This month, four volumes of a scheduled eight are being issued here as part of the Penguin Classics series. These hip-pocket paperbacks are each translated by a literary scholar, and the visually witty covers take their images from Magritte and other Surrealist masters. They are as removed in tone from the weighty and astronomically expensive 24-volume version edited by James Strachey as Freud's office in London's solidly bourgeois Hampstead neighborhood (now the Freud Museum) is from Phillips's office in trendy Notting Hill.

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