New Criticals

Freud’s Ashes


      I did not grieve for the Professor or think of him. [1]


I have been trying to write about Freud for over a year now — ever since I heard about the attempted theft of his ashes. They were in an old Greek urn, given to Freud by the Princess Marie Bonaparte. I imagined the moment that urn crashed in the night. I thought of how it swayed, uncertain of its destiny. I wanted to write about it, about Freud, but I didn’t know what to say.

Instead of writing, I read. I read the pedestal which held the urn. It says:

                                                         SIGMVND FREVD
                                                       6.5.1856 - 23.9.1939

Below, in smaller type:

                                                         MARTHA FREVD
                                                       26.7.1861 - 2.11.1951

Their names are carved with the Latin V in place of the U, an engraving convention both forgotten and archaic. Scanning the words — SIGMVND FREVD — generates a tension; I expect a vowel but see a consonant instead. It's a disjuncture of the present, the words comprehensible yet parasitic on the act of reading.