« Between Casanova’s time and ours stretch two centuries of ignorance and misunderstanding. This remarkable man has been thought of as a Don Juan of the salons, cold and indifferent to women, but in this new book Lydia Flem rediscovers him as he really was, an ardent man of the Enlightenment, a true friend and lover of women. In Paris, Rome, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and London, this comedians’ child could be found in aristocratic milieus or low dives, in convent alcoves, at gaming tables and in the libraries of the philosophes: Casanova was everywhere and knew everyone. A generous, spirited man, he gave of himself without stint, and men and women alike rejoiced in his company. He was learned, amusing, helpful, wise – and something of a scoundrel, for in the class-bound European circles he moved in, he was always on the point of being « found out » as an impostor, a low-born nobody. He hated the snobbery but he loved his freedom. Ms. Flem gives a deliciously entertaining account of Casanova’s adventures with women young and old (sometimes mother and daughter), with friends both fierce and loyal, interspersing her own witty narrative with quotations of apt passages from Casanova’s amazing memoirs – which he wrote when, slowed by old age and illness, he was exiled from Venice and living in a Bohemian castle. »
Souvenir Press, 2005, translated by Elfreda Powell
This taboo-breaking book deepens the understanding of the death of one’s parents through the experiences of the author, a daughter of Holocaust survivors. Her parents never communicated their imprisonment experiences, causing Lydia Flem to grow up in a stifling silence that was finally broken upon their deaths as she emptied the old house. She discovers that the lonely process of bereavement is not only one of grieving, but a chaotic jumble of emotions that range from anger and oppressive, infinite pain to revulsion, remorse, and a strange sense of freedom.
« Elegant, poignant and profoundly honest, The Final Reminder is a rumination on ageing, bereavement, solitude and ancestry. » — ‘Times Literary Supplement’
« Lydia Flem has used the process of clearing out her parents’ home after her mother’s death to explore her grief. » — ‘Jewish Chronicle’
« In the process of clearing the house Lydia… gets to know her mother more truly after death. » — ‘Spectator’
« This painful but poignant and taboo-breaking book… explores the process of bereavement and the curious mix of emotions it brings. » — ‘Tribune’
« Deserves to take its place in that select library, alongside Tennyson’s In Memoriam and CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed. » — ‘Sunday Times’ –This text refers to the Paperback edition.
The world knows Freud as a thinker–one of the founding giants of modern culture. Now Lydia Flem paints a unique and unforgettable portrait of Frued the man: a father, husband, and friend, a secular Jew with passion for classical antiquity and European culture, torn between his need to be fully accepted in an anitsemitic society while remaining fatihful to his orgins.
Flem enters into the depths of Freud’s creativity, showing how his thinking is connected to his immersion in the arts, the history of religions, and mythology. The intimate details of his daily life, his relationships with women, his poetic gifts, his travels, his dreams, his letters to family, friends, and colleagues: all reveal his vision of the unconscious. We accompany Freud on his walks through Vienna and Rome; look over his shoulder as he writes to his fiancee; learn the significance of the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian figurines that stand before him on his desk as he conceives his groundbreaking ideas; and discover the books, read in childhood, that later shape his self-analysis and his theoretical development.
Flem draws on an unusually broad range of sources, but she wears her learning lightly: her biography of Freud reads like a novel, full of vivid details and captivating human interest. From the 6-year-old gleefully tearing up a book illustrated with pictures of Persia; to the young doctor balancing his scientific training with his love of Shakespeare; to the psychoanalyst in his prime, conquering the resistance to his theories; to the old man, ravaged by illness, forced to flee into exile in England, Lydia Flem leads us deep into the life of a genius.
When Sigismund Schlomo Freud turned seven, his father, Jakob, opened the family Torah for him. The biblical story he presented for Sigmund to read was from the remarkable bilingual German-Hebrew edition, the Israelitische Bibel. The stories in this edition were illustrated and included commentaries by the Reform rabbi Ludwig Philippson in the spirit of the Aufklärung, the Judaism of the En- lightenment. This exceptional version of the Bible is subtitled Den heiligen Urtext, and for Freud this first book of stories and images was a fundamental, founding text.
From the time he was nine and a half, when his maternal grandfather, Jakob Nathansohn, died, the archaeological engravings from Philippson’s Bible served as the backdrop to the only anxiety dream that Freud talked about and analyzed over thirty years later in The Interpretation of Dreams, the dream he called “beloved mother and bird-beaked figures.” On his thirty-fifth birthday, his father gave him the copy of his childhood Bible, newly rebound, or perhaps bound for the first time, for it is not impossible that Jakob Freud acquired this Bible in its first edi- tion, in fascicules, between 1839 and 1854. He added an inscription in Hebrew to this symbolic gift:
Son who is dear to me, Shelomoh. In the seventh in the days of the years of your life the Spirit of the Lord began to move you [Judges 13:25] and spoke within you: Go, read in my Book that I have written and there will burst open for you the wellsprings of understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. Behold, it is the Book of Books, from which sages have excavated and lawmakers learned knowl- edge and judgment [ Numbers 21:18]. A vision of the Almighty did you see; you heard and strove to do, and you soared on the wings of the Spirit [ Psalms 18:11]. Since then the book has been stored like the fragments of the tablets in an ark with me. For the day on which your years were filled to five and thirty I have put upon it a cover of new skin and have called it: ‘Spring up, O well, sing ye unto it!’ [Numbers 21:17] And I have presented it to you as a memorial and as a reminder of love from your father, who loves you with everlasting love. Jakob, Son of R. Shelomoh Freid [sic]. In the capital city Vienna, 29 Nisan 651, 6 May 1891. (….) »
Les Photographies de Lydia Flem. The Photographs of Lydia Flem, avec des textes de : Yves Bonnefoy, Alain Fleischer, Fabrice Gabriel, Hélène Giannecchini, Agnès de Gouvion Saint- Cyr, Donatien Grau, Ivan Jablonka, Jean- Luc Monterosso, Catherine Perret, François Vitrani, édition bilingue français/ anglais, ed. Maison européenne de la photographie, Maison de l’Amérique latine, Institut français de Berlin, 2014.
« Lydia Flem’s photographs take their place within the history of photography only by inscribing a difference there. (…)
The objects photographed by Lydia Flem exist only by and through us, they are of the same kind as those she found in her parents’ home, where they asked her to be able to go on being, and that she should do so herself. This way of photographing has grasped in the thing itself the yet invisible movement whereby it withdraws into itself, and thus falls completely into this space of matter that is repressed by the places we institute but, from the depths of this abyss, reaches out to us. » (p.117 et ss)
« In these images that Lydia showed me, what I was seeing was clearly visual writing, made up of a set of organised and mastered signs, with a sense of space, a sense of sign-objects, symbol-objects and trace-objects, and of the relations between them, of light and perspective. This visual writing produces a series of enigmas to be deciphered in the mysterious mode that sometimes characterises poems. I told Lydia that for me hers was the work of an authentic photographer, a case of what, with a rather inadequate formula, we in France call “photographie plasticienne.” I remember the seminal exhibition Ils se disent peintres, ils se disent photographes curated by Michel Nuridsany at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the early 1980s. Alongside photographers who presented themselves as such there were also artists who, although working only with photography, insisted on being called painters – an attitude and a form of vanity that I have always contested. For sure, there are different families in the world of photography, but I still think that every image produced with a camera on a photographic support is above all else a photograph. » (p.133 et ss)
« Today’s photographic images are produced by bodies that are equipped not with cameras but with computers fitted with cameras. By bodies whose perceptions are no longer dominated by the sense of vision. Freed from the analogy with vision, the photographic image refers back to a support that has no referent. Or at least, a support whose referent is no longer space seen by the eye of the lens, alias, the eye of the person operating the camera: visual space, but visible space. This space is the psychic space which refers to no real other than the fiction of life that is being invented: the fiction of the work. Only an analyst, my dear Lydia, could take this step seemingly without noticing it, so smoothly. And you are one of those artists (often women artists, as if by coincidence) who have taken photography through the mirror. »