Alix Strachey (1892–1973), translator of Freud, lived in Berlin from late 1924 to 1925 during her analysis with Karl Abraham. Nearly every day, she exchanged lively, informative, and ironic letters with her husband James during this period.
Alix Strachey (1892–1973) translated the works of Freud, together with her husband James. Both were members of the community of artists and writers known as the Bloomsbury Group, and exchanged letters and visits with, among others, the artist Dora Carrington, the music critic and writer Eddy Sackville-West, and the economist John Maynard Keynes, who lived in their Bloomsbury house for a time. Alix came to Berlin in September 1924 and continued to live at the Pension Bismarck in the district of Grunewald till October 1925. She returned to Britain at the death of her analyst.
Like numerous other British analysands in training, e.g. the modernist writer and film pioneer Bryher, she undertook an analysis with Karl Abraham at the Berlin Psychoanalytical Institute. At the same time, she continued to work on the translations with James Strachey, with whom she exchanged nearly daily letters. In these ironic and highly stylised epistles, often using both German and English terms, she gives an account of her activities and discusses psychoanalysis. Her hectic social life included fancy dress balls, theatre, radio concerts, frequent visits to cafés such as the Romanische Café, cinemas, and psychoanalytical lectures.
On 5 December 1924, Alix wrote to James from the Café Schilling, capturing both the political turmoil as well as the atmosphere of Berlin’s nightlife of which she had partaken the night before at a ball: ‘Berlin is seething […] with excitement, for today are the elections. Out of the window of the Café I see processions of lorries, mostly I fear, Schwarz-Weiss-Roth [the colours sported by the nationalists], covered with flags, & filled with yelling éphèbes – all hideous – teeming round & round the Gedächtniskirche. Trumpets, etc tooting, & the street littered with mud-soaked pamphlets. But most people are quite apathetic. […] I prefer a “gemütliche” Sunday morning in this café to an all night debauch with a band […]. My best love, dear James. yrs. Alix.’ Both Stracheys were seminal in paving the way for the Austrian psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, whom Alix had met in Berlin, and her career in London. Alix helped to edit and translate her lectures, to be given in London, and James furthered her cause at the London meetings of leading psychoanalysts. Melanie Klein settled in England before the National Socialists came to power. Gesa Stedman
1—Alix Strachey to James Strachey, 5 December 1924, in Bloomsbury/Freud. The Letters of James and Alix Strachey, 1924–1925, ed. Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick (New York: Basic Books, 1985), p. 140.
Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey, 1924–1925, ed. Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick (New York: Basic Books, 1985)
Marcus, Laura, ‘European Witness: Analysands Abroad in the 1920s and 1930s’, in Dreams of Modernity, ed. Laura Marcus (New York, Cambridge University Press 2014), pp. 151–77
Stedman, Gesa, ‘“A habituée of the Romanische Café”: Alix Strachey’s 1920s Berlin’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 53.3 (2017), pp. 338–48
Stedman, Gesa, ‘“Restoring Friendship and Confidence as far as possible between the Inimical Nations”: Post-World War I Berlin through Anglophone Eyes’, Journal for European Studies, 2/2021 (forthcoming)