The Arty Semite

No Smoke Without Freud

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
wiki commons

As all Freudians realize, an analysis is an analysis, but a good cigar is a smoke. French-Jewish psychoanalyst Philippe Grimbert is known to American readers for his autobiographical novel, “Memory,” published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster — the United Kingdom edition from Portobello Books was titled “Secret”— translated from the 2004 original from Les éditions Grasset, “Un Secret.

Also filmed in 2007 as “Un Secret” starring singer/actor Patrick Bruel (born Benguigui to an Algerian Jewish family), and available on DVD from Strand Releasing, Grimbert’s novel recounts how in boyhood, he invented an imaginary older brother who, it turns out, actually existed, and how the title secret led to his parents’ tragic joint suicide.

In March an equally revealing, psychoanalytically introspective 1999 book by Grimbert was reprinted by Les éditions Fayard/Pluriel. “No Smoke Without Freud” (“Pas de fumée sans Freud”) is a study of Sigmund Freud’s passion for cigars, along with highly personal reflections by the author, himself a fervent smoker who has spoken out against France’s new anti-smoking laws.

Grimbert sees Freud’s obsession with cigars as being at the “very root of [Freud’s] neuroses, and cigarettes as a “derivative of the maternal breast” as well as an “instrument for momentary pleasure and protection against the tension created in a hostile environment.” Grimbert also contributed a chapter to the 2005 collective work from Les éditions Jean-Jacques Pauvert, “I Smoke, Why Don’t You? : Against Tobacco-phobia” (“Je fume, pourquoi pas vous? Contre la tabacophobie”).

“No Smoke Without Freud” notes that even after Freud received the devastating diagnosis of jaw cancer, which spread to his mouth’s mucous membranes, leading to many agonizing operations starting in 1923, he could not give up smoking entirely. Freud referred to his cigars as Arbeitsmittel, or work equipment, and he analyzed patients and conferred with colleagues amid thick clouds of smoke, as described in patient memoirs such as “Tribute to Freud,” reprinted in 2009 from New Directions by American poet Hilda Doolittle.

So essential were cigars to Freud’s work that when one Hungarian disciple, Sándor Ferenczi, known as the “Jewish Crown Prince of Psychoanalysis,” compared Freud to poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Freud objected on the grounds that Goethe had a “holy terror” of smoking. Ultimately, Freud’s relationship with cigars was a sort of Liebestod, or love-death, which made psychoanalysis itself into a kind of “smoker’s dream,” Grimbert alleges. Metaphorically deft, he likens the cancerous Freud to Greek mythology’s Prometheus, whose liver was continually gnawed at by an eagle. Ouch !

Watch Philippe Grimbert at a 2010 French book fair.

And at a French bookstore presentation in 2009.

Watch Grimbert speaking here in 1999 about Freud’s passion for smoking and here in 2010, speaking about the “social ties” created by cigarette smoking.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sigmund Freud, Philippe Grimbert, Patrick Bruel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.