In english

Lydia Flem is a french writer, psychoanalyst and photographer.

Lydia Flem is the daughter of a Russian father and German mother who fought in the French Resistance, both parents survived internment by the Nazis in the Second World War.

She has written a number of books, including ‘Freud the Man’ ( Other Press) and ‘Casanova, of the Art of Happiness’, which have been published in English by Penguin ( London) and Farrar&Straus ( New York) and the best-seller  » How I Emptied My Parents’House ».

Her  books are translated in 19 languages, including chinese and hebrew.
Her last novel  » La Reine Alice » received several prizes.
She published in autumn 2013 her first book of photos :  » Journal implicite », La Martinière/Maison Européenne de la Photographie.

Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium.

Solo shows:

  • 2011- Lady Cobalt. Journal photographique, Imec (Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine), Caen, hanging Alain Fleischer ( 29 janvier – 27 février).
  • 2011-12- The photographic Diary of Queen Alice/ Le Journal photographique de la Reine Alice, Espace photographique Contretype, Bruxelles, (29 novembre 2011 – 15 janvier 2012).
  • 2014 – Exposition personnelle/solo show/ 6e Mois européen de la photographie à l’Institut français de Berlin, curator Fabrice Gabriel.
  • 2015 – Exposition à la MEP (Maison Européenne de la photographie, Paris) du 15 avril au 14 juin 2015, curator Jean-Luc Monterosso.
  • 2015 – Fiac (Galerie Françoise Paviot).

The Photographs of Lydia Flem , 2014, (in english and french)

with texts of Yves Bonnefoy, Alain Fleischer, Fabrice Gabriel, Hélène Giannecchini, Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, Donatien Grau, Ivan Jablonka, Jean-Luc Monterosso, Catherine Perret, François Vitrani.

Queen Alice

On February 2011, Flem published a more recent element of her own history, an autobiographical novel, “Queen Alice,” (La Reine Alice) with Les éditions du Seuil inspired by a real-life bout with breast cancer. Describing chemotherapy sessions of Alice (herself), Flem evokes a looking-glass world where a White Rabbit (her oncologist) is as bafflingly ambiguous as in Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece.
Flem’s understanding of human emotions is profound; she previously published 1986’s “The Daily Lives of Freud and His Patients” (La vie quotidienne de Freud et de ses patients) from Les editions Hachette, followed by 1991’s “Freud the Man” (L’homme Freud) from Les éditions du Seuil, available in translation from The Other Press.
Analyzing her reactions and self-therapy, Flem describes being “cradled” by the song “Don’t Explain” co-written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr., as if a reflection of her illness’s inexplicability. When the White Rabbit inquires how Alice is feeling, she replies by singing a different song, the ironic comic number, “Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise” (Everything’s Fine, Ma’am) composed by the French Jewish songwriter Paul Misraki and popularized by the 1930s French Jewish bandleader Ray Ventura.
Reading also provides comfort, notably Paul Celan’s poem “Corona” (“Time returns to the Shell. In the mirror it’s Sunday”) which Alice discovers “wraps her in words like a blanket, placing her beyond suffering’s reach.” She also pores over Kafka’s novel “The Castle”, relishing a passage about self-reliance in pursuing one’s voyage:
The villagers who sent him away or seemed to fear him struck him as less dangerous, for basically they were rejecting only his person, while helping him to concentrate his forces.
Courageously pursuing her own voyage, Flem has produced an inspiring and compelling text in the family tradition of survival.


Princeton University Press 2016

Makers of Jewish Modernity

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)

Judaism Essentiel and Mysterious

Lydia Flem

« 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. »

(translated by Catherine Temerson)


CASANOVA the man who really loved women

translated by CatherineTemerson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ed.


Review : New York Times

« 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. »

 Freud the Man, Other Press, 2003, translation Susan Fairfield

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.

The Final Reminder : How I Emptied My Parents’ House

translation 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.

« No matter what age we are, the day will come when we find ourselves orphaned ». The lonely process of bereavement is not only one of grieving but, for all of us, it brings a chaotic jumble of emotions that range from anger, oppressive and infinite pain to revulsion, remorse and a strange sense of freedom. Having to empty our parents’ house intensifies these feelings; each object is redolent with symbolism, stirring memories of our parents’ past and also of own childhood. For Lydia it was a difficult task. Both her parents had narrowly escape the Holocaust – her father, still a student, survived the Second World Ward in a Nazi labour camp, while her mother, a feisty member of the French Resistance, was one of the few to return from Auschwitz. But they never communicated these experiences to their daughter, who grew up trapped in their stifling silence. Only after their deaths, and with emptying their house did Lydia discover the truth about her extended family and come to terms with her mother’s difficult character. In writing this book, both poignant and funny, and one in which we can all recognise our own reactions; Lydia Flem brings to life a loving portrait of her parents. This taboo-breaking book, which expresses universal truths about bereavement, will deepen our understanding of our reactions to the deaths of those who gave us life.


« 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.



Une réflexion au sujet de « In english »

Laisser un commentaire

%d blogueurs aiment cette page :