© 2024 WKNO FM
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Freud And Oedipus Converge In 'Three Roads'

Where Three Roads Meet, the new novel from British psychologist and fiction writer Sally Vickers, is set in the spring of 1923, and features an invented encounter between the ailing Sigmund Freud and the blind, ancient soothsayer Tiresias.

Freud encounters the Greek seer around the time that he first notices the growth in his jaw that will eventually lead to his death by cancer. Invisible to all but the great ailing doctor, the visitor seems to have come seeking treatment. Is Freud hallucinating?

Tiresias tells Freud the story of his own troubled childhood and engages the doctor in a dialogue about Oedipus, the king of ancient Thebes, whose story weighs on Western civilization like a great psychic anchor; Freud has made this myth — the monumental story of murder, incest and recognition — the foundation of all his analytical work.

Incident by incident, scene by scene, the two men parse out the Oedipus tale, with each speaker adding his own particular wisdom to the story: Tiresias offers his eyewitness account; Freud, his deep understanding of the power of the repressed injury suffered by the king.

Counterpoised to this is the story of Freud's long illness, which lasted 16 years until his death; his movement from Vienna to London; and the Nazi ravage of Europe and murder of Freud's family.

As Freud's own demise draws near, the back and forth between him and his mythical visitor elevates, and Vickers' imagery soars toward the sublime.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.