After we got back, I came across a capsule review of a new book by Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain from Vienna 1900 to the Present. It turns out to be a followup of sorts to Kandel’s earlier In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, here focused on the links between science and art in Vienna’s golden era: Freud, Schnitzler, Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka. If you’re into memory studies, Kandel’s work is fundamental, but this book includes a return to educational origins for him, since he was a History and Literature major at Harvard in 1950 before deciding to take up neurology, and did his undergrad thesis on the response to National Socialism in the work of three German writers, Carl Zuckmayer, Hans Carossa, and Ernst Jünger.
An interview with Kandel reminds me of a conversation Andrew and I had on the tram out to Oberlaa about the continuing relevance of Freud. I was questioning how psychoanalysis could stick with its self-conception as an ongoing field of research in the scientific sense, limited as it was to explication of the master’s theories. It turns out Kandel saw his project early on as the establishment of Freud’s insights on a proper neurological basis. You can take the boy out of Vienna (born in 1929, Kandel left with his family after Kristallnacht) but not Vienna out of the boy. After he won the Nobel for Medicine, a film on his life and work appeared, from which this still (recreation of a Viennese childhood episode) is taken: