[BOOK] Jed Rubenfeld’s “The Interpretation of Murder”: A spellbinding thriller featuring Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Sandor Ferenczi searching for a diabolical killer in turn of the century New York.

After moving into my new tiny abode in a 1920s apartment buildingin Downtown Toronto last summer, I discovered a table in the basement laundry room where people were leaving one or two books to exchange.  The first book I picked up and flipped to the first paragraph left me awestruck.  I proceeded upstairs and did not put it down for the next several hours, perhaps days (i’m a slow reader).  It begins in reality—-the historical reality, of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud arriving in New York City in 1909 for the first time, by ship.  This actually happened.  But after this trip, they had a incredible cleavage in their professional and personal relationship.  This novel weaves an intriguing, spellbinding tale of what occurred during their time in America and evokes fascinating aspects of psycho-analytical thought in the process.  Not to ruin the surprise (oops)…but after the whole tale is told, the author –who happens to be Mr. Amy Chua (another favorite thinker of mine, World on Fire etc), reveals that the dialogue between these psychoanalytic titans throughout this fictional tale was in fact faithful to their actual correspondence at the time, via mail etc., all documented in history.

I had until then never read such a wickedly captivating tale.  Although a fictional murder mystery, it leaves you not only entertained and thrilled, but educated as well.  I really enjoyed this read, although I’ve noticed online that it has not been received as enthusiastically as I myself would recommend it.



“A puritan society should ban us,” Freud observes about America. “It will ban you,” Jung replies, “as soon as it figures out what we are saying.”


Sigmund Freud

(German pronunciation: [ˈziːkmʊnt ˈfʁɔʏt]), born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939), was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis. An early neurological researcher into cerebral palsy, aphasia and microscopic neuroanatomy, Freud later developed theories about the unconscious and the mechanism of repression, and created psychoanalysis as a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient (or “analysand”) and a psychoanalyst.

Freud postulated that sexual drives were the primary motivational forces of human life, developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association, discovered the phenomenon of transference in the therapeutic relationship and established its central role in the analytic process, and interpreted dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires. He was also a prolific essayist, drawing on psychoanalysis to contribute to the history, interpretation and critique of culture.


Carl Jung

(German: [ˈkarl ˈɡʊstaf ˈjʊŋ]; 26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as “by nature religious” and make it the focus of exploration.[1] Though not the first to analyze dreams, he is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and symbolization. While he was a fully involved and practicing clinician, much of his life’s work was spent exploring tangential areas, including Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, and sociology, as well as literature and the arts; all of which were extremely productive in regard to the symbols and processes of the human psyche, found in dreams and other entries to the unconscious.

Jung considered the process of individuation necessary for a person to become whole. This is a psychological process of integrating the opposites including the conscious with the unconscious while still maintaining their relative autonomy.[2] Individuation was the central concept of analytical psychology.[3]

Many psychological concepts were originally proposed by Jung, including the Archetype, the Collective Unconscious, the Complex, and synchronicity. A popular psychometric instrument, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), has been principally developed from Jung’s theories.


Sandor Ferenczi

(7 July 1873, Miskolc, Hungary – 22 May 1933, Budapest, Hungary) was a Hungarian psychoanalyst, a key theorist of the psychoanalytic school and a close associate of Sigmund Freud.

Born Sándor Fränkel to Baruch Fränkel and Rosa Eibenschütz, both Polish Jews, he later magyarized his surname to Ferenczi.

As a result of his psychiatric work, he came to believe that his patients’ accounts of sexual abuse as children were truthful, having verified those accounts through other patients in the same family. This was a major reason for his eventual disputes with Sigmund Freud.

Prior to this conclusion he was notable as a psychoanalyst for working with the most difficult of patients and for developing a theory of more active intervention than is usual for psychoanalytic practice. During the early 1920s, criticizing Freud’s “classical” method of neutral interpretation, Ferenczi collaborated with Otto Rank to create a “here-and-now” psychotherapy that, through Rank’s personal influence, led the American Carl Rogers to conceptualize person-centered therapy (Kramer 1995).

Ferenczi has found some favour in modern times among the followers of Jacques Lacan as well as among relational psychoanalysts in the United States. Relational analysts read Ferenczi as anticipating their own clinical emphasis on mutuality (intimacy), intersubjectivity, and the importance of the analyst’scountertransference. Ferenczi’s work has strongly influenced theory and praxis of the interpersonal-relational theory of American psychoanalysis, as typified by psychoanalysts at the William Alanson White Institute.


Jed Rubenfeld is the author of the international bestsellerThe Interpretation of Murder. He is a professor at Yale University Law School and is one of the country’s foremost experts on constitutional law. He wrote his undergraduate thesis at Princeton University on Sigmund Freud. He lives in Connecticut with his family.


If the above appeared intriguing, check out this film:
[FILM] “”True sexuality demands the destruction of the ego,” she says, …a kind of self-annihilation…, which is “the opposite to what Freud proposes.”—’A DANGEROUS METHOD’ –brings to mind the novel “The Interpretation of Murder”


3 thoughts on “[BOOK] Jed Rubenfeld’s “The Interpretation of Murder”: A spellbinding thriller featuring Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Sandor Ferenczi searching for a diabolical killer in turn of the century New York.

  1. […] I really enjoyed this film. Having been recently ruminating once more on the sociological pathology of Honour Killings and the necessity to control the chastity of young females in most patriarchical societies, this film made me wonder whether it was indeed the birth of the Austrian-’Jewish’ school of psychoanalysis which led to the advent of the liberation of female sexuality in Western society. This may be obvious to some, but I find the potential of this quite intriguing. Especially in light of my introduction to Otto Gross from this movie. He actually deserves a separate post on his own (soon). I think psychoanalysis may be owed a great debt by the Western Society generally, a society which today is quite distinct from its Victorian Era incarnation, having had so many taboos and inter-related psychic truths brought out of closets into the public to be acknowledged and dealt with. The writing in this film is quite erudite, making one almost want to take notes at times. Such as the questioning of WHY humans, while such sexual animals, have this overwhelming need to repress this sexuality at the same time. This of course, is what the foundation of psychoanalysis was all about–the search for an understanding of this unfortunate duality…which inevitably leads to emotional baggage in a great number of humanoids. This film is recommended for neurotic uber-ruminators. Perhaps as a elementary introduction to the history of psychoanalysis. Also do read The Interpretation of Murder. […]

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