Anna Freud

The basis of ANNA FREUD: THE DREAM OF PSYCHOANALYSIS is the relationship Robert Coles developed with Freud as she mentored him in their mutual profession-cum-passion, child psychiatry. Remembered conversations formed the chrysalis from which this tribute sprang, and although the book can’t quite withstand categorization either as biography or memoir, it creates its own dignified niche as analysis humanized and awarded—thoughtfully, respectfully—by one great thinker to another.

Coles writes of Freud that “the slope of her thinking was ever down from lofty orthodoxy to the broad clinical plains, where live all those children, each with a germ of human particularity and complexity, each with a ’line of development,’ a singular story line.”

Although lacking the credentials of a traditional education, Freud, who was herself analyzed by her infamous father, virtually founded child psychiatry, or at least that branch of the discipline Coles admires most. In chapters titled “Teacher,” “Theorist,” “Healer,” “Leader,” “Idealist,” and “Writer,” Coles explicates how Freud filled each of these roles, and he emphasizes how her often-austere demeanor merely disguised her compassionate nature.

The author discusses Freud’s lifelong practice and school in London, but he also details her reactions to questions that he asked her in the course of their friendship. This approach encourages the reader to see the substance of the subject’s existence as all that matters; the minutiae of daily life is insignificant.

Of specific interest to researchers are Freud’s remarks about her philosophical rival, Melanie Klein, and the letters from Freud to Coles included in the appendix.