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Freud and Archeology: the Freudian Metaphor

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image of East Central Europe

I was brought up in an East European Jewish family where jokes and anecdotes are necessary elements of every conversation. I must have been around seven years old when I heard my aunt telling a joke to my mother about two funny-named men, Sisyphus and Oedipus. I was a "perceptive kid" - as my grandmother used to call me - who normally understood jokes, even those which I was not supposed to. This one, however, made no sense to me. I could have just given up upon it, but those names fascinated me: Sisyphus and Oedipushad never heard of them before. So I asked my mother who these two people were and if she would explain the joke to me. As it soon turned out, it was one of those "nicht vor dem Kind"1 jokes, playing on Freudian connotations. However, I was used to the openness-policy of my father, so I expected an honest explanation. My mother had no difficulties in explaining the story of Sisyphus: a child of that age can easily relate to someone who tries to achieve something that is seemingly impossible to do. But how can anyone explain the story of Oedipus to a seven-year-old? That was the first time I heard the name Oedipus. It is only now, many years later, that I finally understand Oedipus' story, too.


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