Freud on Parapraxes


In the summer of 1898, Freud was driving, with a stranger, from what is now Dubrovnik to somewhere in Herzegovina. The conversation turned to Italy, and he found himself unable to remember the name of the painter of the Last Judgment in the cathedral at Orvieto. Instead of "Signorelli", he could only remember "Botticelli" or "Boltraffio", but knew that both were wrong.

The background was that just before this remark, Freud had told his companion of a remark, supposed to be typical of the general attitude to life of the Turkish population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told him by a doctor. When the father of the family is about to die, one of the members of the family will say to the doctor, "Sir (
Herr), what is there to be said? If he could be saved, I know you would have saved him." And there is another remark by these people, about sexual enjoyment: "Sir (Herr), you must know, that if that comes to an end, life is of no value." So, the same people that are so cavalier about death are despairing at the loss of this source of pleasure.

Now, Freud was reluctant to relate the second of these two comments to his companion. But, there was a deeper reason. Some weeks before, while staying at Trafoi in the Tyrol mountains, he heard of the suicide of a patient he had worked with, who had a sexual disorder. The incident was much on his mind during this trip to Herzegovina. So, he tried to banish from his mind thoughts of death and of sexuality. The immediate effect was that he checked himself before mentioning the second comment; the deferred effect was that he forgot the name of the painter.

Psychopathology of Everyday Life






[Her]zegovina and [Bo]snia


[Herr], what is there to be said? etc.




Death and sexuality


<repressed thoughts>