MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Sally Vickers is a British psychologist and fiction writer. She's tapped into both professions to come up with her latest novel, Where Three Roads Meet. It's about an imagined encounter between the ailing Sigmund Freud and a mythical blind seer. Alan Cheuse has this review.
ALAN CHEUSE: Spring of 1923, the time when Sigmund Freud first notices the growth in his jaw that would eventually lead to his death by cancer. In the same month, Freud receives a visit from a wise stranger. Is he hallucinating? It's the blind ancient Greek seer and soothsayer, Tiresias. The visitor, invisible to all but the great ailing doctor, seems to have come seeking treatment. He tells the story of his own troubled childhood, and he engages Freud in a dialog about the story of Oedipus, the king of ancient Thebes.
Freud has made this myth, the story of murder, incest and recognition, the foundation of all his analytical work. Incident by incident, scene by scene, the enlightened dialoguers parse out the Oedipus tale, which as Freud points out, weighs on Western civilization like a great psychic anger. Each speaker adds his own particular wisdom.
Tiresias, his first-person account, Freud, his deep understanding of the power of the repressed injury suffered by Oedipus the king. There's something I would like your view on, doctor, the sightless old prophet says to Freud.
What is it to remember - remember to put a body together again? And Freud responds, it is all encrypted in the body, what is not recollected, it's ineluctably reenacted. Juxtaposed to this is the story of the long dying of the great doctor over the course of some 16 years, as he moves from Vienna to London, while the Nazis ravage Europe and murder part of his family.
As Freud's own demise draws near, the back and forth between him and his mythical visitor seems to elevate itself to a new high degree, to a meeting of roads we all approach at some point in our lives.
The power of the last few sections of this not-overly-long saga of repression and recognition, took me over as the fascinating story of this imaginary encounter soared toward the sublime.
BLOCK: The latest novel by Sally Vickers is called Where Three Roads Meet. Our critic, Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
(Soundbite of music)
BLOCK: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.