Excerpt from The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Interpretation of Murder

A Novel

by Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 384 pages
    Jun 2007, 450 pages

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“There is train below river?” asked Sándor Ferenczi incredulously.
Not only did such a train exist, Brill and I assured him, but we were going to ride it. In addition to the new tunnel across the Hudson River, the Hoboken tube boasted another innovation: full baggage service. All a voyager arriving in the United States had to do was mark his luggage with the name of his hotel in Manhattan. Porters stowed the trunks in the train’s baggage car, and handlers on the other end did the rest. Taking advantage of this amenity, we walked out onto the platform, which overlooked the river. With the setting of the sun, the fog had lifted, revealing the jagged Manhattan skyline, studded with electric lights. Our guests stared in wonder: at the sheer expanse of it, and at the spires piercing the clouds.
“It’s the center of the world,” said Brill.
“I dreamt of Rome last night,” Freud replied.
We waited on pins and needles—at least I did—for him to go on.
Freud drew on his cigar. “I was walking, alone,” he said. “Night had just fallen, as it has now. I came upon a shop window with a jewelry box. That of course means a woman. I looked around. To my embarrassment, I had wandered into an entire neighborhood of bordellos.”
A debate ensued on whether Freud’s teachings dictated defiance of conventional sexual morality. Jung held that they did; indeed, he maintained that anyone who failed to see this implication had not understood Freud. The whole point of psychoanalysis, he said, was that society’s prohibitions were ignorant and unhealthy. Only cowardice would make men submit to civilized morality once they had understood Freud’s discoveries.
Brill and Ferenczi vigorously disagreed. Psychoanalysis demanded that a man be conscious of his true sexual wishes, not that he succumb to them. “When we hear a patient’s dream,” said Brill, “we interpret it. We don’t tell the patient to fulfill the wishes he is unconsciously expressing. I don’t, at any rate. Do you, Jung?”
I noticed both Brill and Ferenczi sneaking glances at Freud as they elaborated his ideas—hoping, I supposed, to find endorsement. Jung never did. He either had, or affected having, perfect confidence in his position. As for Freud, he intervened on neither side, apparently content to watch the debate unfold.
“Some dreams do not require interpretation,” Jung said; “they require action. Consider Herr Professor Freud’s dream last night of prostitutes. The meaning is not in doubt: suppressed libido, stimulated by our anticipated arrival in a new world. There is no point talking about such a dream.” Here Jung turned to Freud. “Why not act on it? We are in America; we can do what we like.”
For the first time, Freud broke in: “I am a married man, Jung.”
“So am I,” Jung replied.
Freud raised an eyebrow, nodding, but made no reply. I informed our party that it was time to board the train. Freud took a last look over the railing. A stiff wind blew in our faces. As we all gazed at the lights of Manhattan, he smiled. “If they only knew what we are bringing them.”

Copyright © 2006 by Jed Rubenfeld

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