Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"When I was jung and easily freudened"

That playful phrase from Finnegans Wake aptly pinpoints the intersection of Freud and Grete Lainer, whose diary from ages 11 to 14 he was responsible for having published.
September 25th. All the girls are madly in love 
with Professor Wilke the natural history professor. 
Hella and I walked behind him to-day all the way 
home. He is a splendid looking man, so tall that his 
head nearly touches the lamp when he stands up 
quickly, and a splendid fair beard like fire when the 
sun shines on it; a Sun God! we call him S. G., but 
no one knows what it means and who we are talking 
September 29th. Schmolka has left, I suppose because of Frl. St.'s vanity bag. Two other girls have 
left and three new ones have come, but neither I 
nor Hella like them.
October 1st. It was my turn in Natural History 
today I worked frightfully hard and He was 
splendid. We are to look after the pictures and the 
animals all through the term. How jolly. Hella and 
I always wear the same coloured hair ribbons and in 
the Nat. Hist. lesson we always put tissue paper of 
the same colour on the desk. He wants us to keep 
notebooks, observations on Nature. We have bound 
ours in lilac paper, exactly the same shade as his necktie. On Tuesdays and Fridays we have to come to 
school at 1/2 past 8 to get things ready. Oh how 
happy I am.
October 9th. He is a cousin of our gymnastic master, splendid! This is how we found it out. We, Hella and I, are always going past the Café Sick because he always has his afternoon coffee there. And on Thursday when we passed by there before the gymnastic lesson there was the gymnastic master sitting with him. Of course we bowed to them as we passed and in the gymnastic lesson Herr Baar said to us: So you two are tormented and pestered by my cousin in natural history? "Pestered" we said, o no, it's the most delightful lesson in the whole week. "Is that so?" said he, "I won't forget to let him know." Of course we begged and prayed him not to give us away, saying it would be awful. But we do hope he will.
The illustration above right comes from the blogger "Caustic Cover Critic," who has taken the initiative to design and self-publish neglected books under the rubric Whiskey Priest Press. (The image is a detail from ‘Profilbildnis eines Mädchens’ [‘Profile portrait of a girl, 1897] by Koloman Moser, "a number of whose paintings capture Viennese adolescence rather intriguingly.")
The "pash" that Grete and Helle have on Herr Professor reminds me of the hilarious film The World of Henry Orient, in which two schoolgirls are smitten with the Peter Sellers character and devise elaborate stratagems to spy on him.
As Julia Swindells writes in the preface to our Dover edition of the Diary, "Much of the pleasure comes from the discovery that however far adults prescribe acceptable behavior and exercise control over them, young people can defeat and defy expectation, by the clandestine pursuit of knowledge, on their own terms."
After the jump: a passage illustrating this point.

Freud and his daughter Anna
Mad. says that if one is madly in love with a man one does whatever he asks. But I don't see that one need do that, for he might ask the most idiotic things; he might ask you to get the moon out of the skies, or to pull out a tooth for his sake. Dora says she can understand it quite well; that I still lack the true inwardness of thought and feeling. It looks like utter nonsense. But since it sounds fine I've written it down, and perhaps I shall find a use for it some day when I'm talking to Walter. Mad. is always frightfully anxious lest she should get a baby. If she did she's sure her father would kill her. The lieutenant is in the flying corps. He hopes he's going to invent a new aeroplane, and that he will make a lot of money out of it. Then he will be able to marry Mad. But it would be awful if something happened and she got a baby already.
May 22nd. Dora asked me to-day how it was I
knew all about these things, whether Hella had told
me. I did not want to give Hella away, so I said
quite casually: "Oh, one can read all about that in
the encyclopedia." But Dora laughed and said:
"You are quite on the wrong scent; you can't find a
tenth of all those things in the encyclopedia, and what
you do find is no good. In these matters it is abso-
lutely no good
depending on books." First of all she
would not tell me any more, but after a time she told
me a good deal, especially the names of certain parts,
and about fertilisation, and about the microscopic
baby which really comes from the husband, and not
as Hella and I had thought, from the wife. And how
one knows whether a woman is fruitful. That is
really an awful word. In fact almost every word
has a second meaning of that sort, and what Dora
says is quite true, one must be fearfully careful when
one is talking. Dora thinks it would be best to make
a list of all such words, but there are such a frightful
lot of them that one never could.


  1. Finding the "something in the nothing." A graded paper with a detailed smiley face, or an A+ with one too many exclamation points went pretty far, I clearly remember having a crush in my youth on my 6th grade teacher. I saw this very teacher the very next summer at the mall and I was left with almost a starstruck feeling!!!

  2. Quite a thorough post today! I had no idea there was a Peter Sellers movie I had yet to see! Thanks!

    1. It is very funny, very British .... and has Angela Lansbury! ;)

    2. The Spanish title is "El irresistible Henry Orient" (?!)

  3. Penny, I know exactly how you feel! Ah, the excitement, confusion, and lovesick notions of being a preteen...

  4. You'll just have to wait till they publish MY memoirs!