Book of the It, The

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Groddeck's Book of the It, first published in 1923 by the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, was a great success. It was followed by a second and third edition in 1926 and 1934. Translations exist in Dutch, Swedish, English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese.

The Book of the It is written in the form of an epistolary novel. The fictional author of the letters is the psychoanalyst Patrick Troll, and the fictional addressee is a lady who wishes to learn, in a playful manner, about psychoanalysis. Groddeck wanted to present his 1916 and 1919 conferences and psychoanalytic concepts in a popular work. He wrote the letters in 1921 and sent them to Freud, whose response was very encouraging ("Their style is fascinating; their tone musical, clever, and impertinent"). At the request of the reading committee, Groddeck made some cuts, though with some reluctance.

What is remarkable about The Book of the It is, first, the content and, second, the presentation. Groddeck highlights the new concepts introduced by psychoanalysis: the infantile, the Unconscious, primary processes, sexuality. He defends the position of Fredrich Neitzsche in Beyond Good and Evil on public discussion of humanity's many perverse tendencies. He describes the illnesses of the body and of the mind as products of the It. He thus opens up a "space for illness" (Chemouni, 1984), a place where the individual It deploys itself under the constraint of symbolizations and associations and where analytic treatment can begin to unfold between the analyst and the patient.

The whole of The Book of the It is an analytic experience, a game that stimulates with its clinical illustrations, reflections, and fragments of self-analysis that Groddeck uses to involve the reader in the dialog. The individual is controlled by the all-powerful It, the role of the body and mind being to express It. There is nothing we can say about the It; we cannot grasp it theoretically; we can know it only through its accomplishments.

Freud used the concept of It in his metapsychology, and ego psychology enlarges its theoretical scope. Only in the course of the last few decades we have begun to understand and appreciate the significance of Groddeck's original contribution to psychoanalysis.

Herbert Will

See also: Id; Groddeck, Georg Walther; Psychosomatic.

Source Citation

Groddeck, Georg. (1923). Das Buch vom Es: Psychoanalytische Briefe an eine Freundin. Leipzig: Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag; München: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1984. The Book of the It. Washington: Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Co., 1928. The Book of the It: Psychoanalytic Letters to a Friend (V. M. E. Collins, Trans.). New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1950.


Chemouni, Jacquy. (1984). Georg Groddeck, psychanalyste de l 'imaginaire: psychanalyse freudienne et psychanalyse groddeckienne. Paris: Payot.

Lewinter, Roger. (1990). Georg Groddeck: Studien zu Leben und Werk. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer.

Mannoni, Maud. (1979). La théorie comme fiction: Freud, Groddeck, Winnicott, Lacan. Paris: Le Seuil.

Roeder von Diersburg, Egenolf. (1961). Georg Groddeck's Philosophie des Es. Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, 15, 131-138.

Roustang, François. (1976). Un destin si funeste. Paris: Minuit.

Will, Herbert. (1985). Freud, Groddeck und die Geschichte des "Es." Psyche, 150-169.