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NEW: Vienna Triangle reviewed by mySanAntonio.com
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Yvette Benavides

As in her previous three novels, Brenda Webster brings to the fore the complicated and compelling entanglements of the study of Freudian psychology in "Vienna Triangle," newly published by San Antonio's Wings Press.

In fact, this latest work encompasses the entire psychoanalytic movement, replete with the depictions of the daily lives and travails of Freud and his closest colleagues and protÈgÈs.

In particular, we learn in greater detail of the fascinating life of Victor Tausk, who is, it seems, Freud's greatest defender and rival. Tausk's suicide in 1918 is at the center of the "Vienna Triangle" of the title. It is a death that continues to elicit confusion and controversy.

Confusion and controversy plague Kate Berg, the novel's protagonist, who pursues a graduate degree in psychology at Columbia University during the turbulent 1960s.

Her dissertation has to do with the female psychoanalysts who blazed a trail alongside Freud. Her research takes her by pure happenstance to an elderly Polish woman named Helene Rosenbach, whose maiden name is Deutsch.

Helene Deutsch enjoyed some notoriety for her theory of penis envy and the supposed innate masochism she theorized women possess. Helene, it turns out, will be an invaluable font of information for Kate.

During her research, Kate discovers that her grandfather — a man her mother refused to discuss — is Victor Tausk.

We learn Tausk was a highly intelligent man who may have proposed the storied theories we have come to assign to Freud. Tausk admired Freud and was subordinate to him in their circle of colleagues, but he also, it seems, detested him. Both men — both married men — had designs on the same woman, Lou Andreas-SalomÈ, known also in history for her love affairs with Nietzsche and Rilke.

The triangle of the title refers to the relationships SalomÈ develops with Tausk and Freud. We learn about the tensions right along with Kate as she reads the words of Tausk in diaries she finds among her mother's things.

Through Kate we deconstruct ideas about women, men, sex, war and human behavior. That's some heavy lifting. But we don't even realize we're doing it.

"Vienna Triangle" might be called a "literary mystery." While Kate digs, tensions rise. Suspense builds. But Webster also wears the hat of a historian and a psychologist. This is a mesmerizing narrative that weaves psychoanalysis, biography, romance and intrigue.