Disque Vert, Le

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In 1924 Le Disque vert, a Belgian review founded and directed by the poet and writer Frédéric Van Ermengen, known as Franz Hellens (1881-1972), published a special issue devoted to "Freud et la psychanalyse," confirming Sigmund Freud's belief that "interest in psychoanalysis has spread to writers in France." (1925d) It is significant that at this time very few of Freud's writings were accessible in French.

A message from Freud, dated February 26, 1924, introduced the issue: "Of the many lessons lavished upon me in the past (1885-1886) by the great Charcot at the Salpêtrière [1885-1888], two left me with a deep impression: that one should never tire of considering the same phenomena again and again (or of submitting to their effects), and that one should not mind meeting with contradiction on every side provided one has worked sincerely."

There were approximately forty-five contributors to the special issue, all with different opinions, positive and negative, about psychoanalysis, providing an important overview of the attitudes toward psychoanalysis in France. Among the contributors were writers (M. Arland, R. Fernandez, V. Larbaud, H. R. Lenormand, J. Rivière, Philippe Soupault, René Crevel, Henri Michaux), psychoanalysts (Angélo Hesnard, René Laforgue, René Allendy), psychiatrists and psychologists (E. Claparède, L. Lapicque, Y. Le Lay).

According to Edmond Jaloux, many writers were hostile to Freud's theories because "they saw in them an attack on the classical conception of human personality." For Jacques de Lacretelle, although some subscribed to the new field, many could not, "because its ideas take place in a field that is almost new to them, one they are only beginning to make use of: the unconscious."

Louis Lapicque, who then held the chair of general psychology at the Sorbonne, had no hesitations: "I have to admit that the ideas of the Viennese professor, although they were sufficiently amusing for me to acquaint myself with them superficially, did not seem to be scientific material and I do not feel capable of discussing them seriously."Étienne Rabaud, professor of biology at the Sorbonne, had a similar opinion: "Within being unaware of Freudianism, I haven't taken the time to make a serious study of it; my limited examination has not left me with a desire to continue." Georges Dwelshauvers, director of the laboratory of experimental psychology in Catalonia, suspected fraud: "He has been inspired by the clinics of Charcot and his school, and the work, so rich in written material, of doctors Raymond and Pierre Janet. He is their student and continues their tradition. And do we know who the real author of psychoanalysis was? It was J. Delboeuf, the psychologist from Liege."

The partisans remained undecided. Professor Henri Claude, head physician at the Clinique des Maladies Mentales at the Sainte-Anne Hospital, the first and only hospital that employed psychoanalysts, wrote, "It is mostly psychologists and writers who have been discussing Freud's work and that of his followers, faithful or dissident, and who, leaving the primitive framework of medicine, have decided to criticize the extension of the doctrine, especially the theory of pansexual symbolism, to all manifestations of intellectual activity. In place of these glosses, we would have preferred reliable personal research, free of prejudice, imbued with the spirit of scientific observation." He added, and René Allendy was in agreement, "I feel, like Adler and Stekel, that we should not lead those unfamiliar with psychoanalysis to believe that Freudian pansexualism is all there is to the field." "Pansexualism" and "symbolism" were signs of Freudianism's disgrace, even though, as Edmond Jaloux so reassuringly remarked, "there are few repressed individuals in France."

Angélo Hesnard indicated the prevailing pessimism of the time: "Current French opinion about Freud remains inconclusive . . . It will never be favorable to him for, whatever he may thinkand in spite of his work with Charcotthe Master of Vienna has remained, in his work, quite remote from French attitudes. And in the extreme and naïve way it confuses facts and theory, doctrine and method, psychoanalysis will never convince anyone except those who have the courage and scientific probity to experiment with it themselves and adapt it to the French mind."

Along withÉdouard Claparède, Albert Thibaudet, a writer, who had already written a positive article in April 1921 in the Nouvelle Revue française, was more optimistic. He wrote, "I only want to say that I see Freud as a man who has entered a long corridor, filled with disorder, with poorly catalogued, poorly lit, poorly interpreted objects, but which holds treasures for the museums of the future and for the literature of today."

André Gide, on June 19, 1924, wrote, after closing the copy of Le Disque vert he had been reading in the train that carried him to Cuverville, "Oh, how annoying Freud is; it seems to me that we managed quite well without him in discovering his America! . . . What he adds, most of all, is his audacity, or, more exactly, he relieves us of a certain false and tiresome modesty. But there is so much that is absurd in this imbecile of genius!"

Alain de Mijolla

Source Citation

Le Disque vert (1924). Freud et la psychanalyse, 2nd year, June 1924.


Gide, André. (1953). The Journals of André Gide. (Justin O'Brien, Trans.) New York: Knopf.

Mijolla, Alain de. (1984). Quelques avatars de la psychanalyse en France. Lecture du Disque Vert (June 1924). L'Évolution psychiatrique, 49, 3, 773-795.