Psychoanalyst and playwright Antonio Quinet discusses the origins of his play about Freud

Hilda and Freud: Collected Words


Antonio Quinet in the performance of the play (Freud Museum, 2013)

This is a play on Hilda Doolittle’s analysis with Freud. The play is based on H. D.´s (Hilda Doolittle) Tribute to Freud, the letters, as well as some of her poetry, that she exchanged with Freud and her literary circle. Hilda, a forty-seven-year old poet met Freud, then in his late seventies, in 1930s Vienna. It was the beginning of a startling “love affair”, with exchanges of gifts, letters, and flowers, within and beyond the psychoanalytical setting.  It was written to be performed  by The Unconscious on Stage Company  at the Freud Museum London from 12th to 16th November 2013.

In March 1933, H. D. disembarked in Vienna, checked in at a hotel to start her analysis with Freud, which was firstly comprised of one session every day of the week and, thus embarked on her “great journey” with Sigmund Freud, the “blameless physician”. She kept a diary of her analytical experience, in  which she wrote down her dreams, associations, daydreams, as well as the professor’s interventions. She called this period “Advent” and regarded it as an intense and highly emotional testimony. She was forty-seven and Freud was seventy-seven when their relationship began. At first, it was just an analytical experience, but soon became a life-long friendship, which lasted until Freud’s death in 1939. During her analysis with Freud she wrote to her lover Kenneth Macpherson about her love transference with “Papa”: “We are having the most luscious sort of free-verse relationship”. In 1944, H. D. rewrote her analytical experience in the format of short chapters, in a poetic prose, which mingles dreams, reality, and imagination. This new narrative—“Writing on the wall”—reinterprets her analysis as an amorous tribute to Freud.


In 1933, modernist poet H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), then 47 and suffering from a severe writer’s block, traveled to Vienna to be analyzed by Sigmund Freud

This analysis is not a conventional one. “The professor himself is uncanonical enough”, wrote H. D., we do not really see the same Freud as we can guess through his classical clinical cases. However, can we possibly say that Freud was the same with each of his analysands? Did he act the same with every patient? Freud told us that each analysis is peculiar and unique. Freud by H. D. is a very surprising one, an enthusiastic analyst who congratulates warmly his patient when she made a discovery or when she found the exact and poetic words to express a psychic event. At seventy-seven years of age, could the old and wise Freud resist this beautiful woman of forty-seven, such a clever, cultivated poet? I couldn’t as a reader. The drama of this play is actually a creation—but this creation is based on H. D. and Freud’s texts. The analytical sessions were also made to be very brief. Lacanian sessions?—you may ask.

Was Freud also in love with Hilda? Were his interpretations supported by a request of love from his patient? I don’t think so, I don’t think Freud got involved with her, breaking the rules of sexual and love abstinence with the patient. He used the power of transference as much as he could to manage H. D.’s analysis. Even when he seemed to be revealing his feelings with some interpretations he made, this was a strategy that was at stake to provoke transference and to stimulate H. D.’s associations. He was playing the semblant (the acting to make believe, as Lacan says) of the father or making believe he was at the locus of the mother, or the role of the old man rejected by the young lady, etc. The analyst is allowed to play and to invent as much as he or she can in order to occupy the place of the cause of the analytic process, to occupy the place of the semblant of the object cause of desire of the subject.  And Freud knew it so well how to do it!

Antonio Quinet, MD, PhD, is a psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, and playwright. He is a member of the School of Psychoanalysis of the Forums of the Lacanian Field; a Professor of the Graduate Program in Psychoanalysis, Health and Society (UVA, Rio de Janeiro), where he developed the research project ‘Theatre and Psychoanalysis’; and the director of the Unconscious on Stage Company. He is the author of ten books published in Brazil (two translated into French and one into Spanish), as well as many articles published in Brazil and abroad on psychoanalysis, and seven plays staged in many cities in Brazil, as well as Rome, Paris, and London. His play, Hilda and Freud: Collected Words is published this week by Karnac Books.

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A page from H. D.’s Notebook (1956–7) describing her analysis with Freud.  It begins:  “Of course, as the Professor said, ‘There is always something more to find out.’ “




2 thoughts on “Psychoanalyst and playwright Antonio Quinet discusses the origins of his play about Freud

  1. Pingback: Kabbalah and Sigmund Freud: Joseph Berke uncovers The Hidden Freud |

  2. Pingback: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil –

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