Thursday, November 7, 2013

Psychoanalyzing Sherlock

By Pierre Bayard.
Bloomsbury USA.
2008. 208 pages.

David Loftus (CALIFORNIA LITERARY REVIEW, December 7, 2008) reviews Bayard's book:
Turning to psychoanalytic theory, Bayard argues THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is a “compromise formation.” It represents Doyle’s deadly hatred for Holmes by absenting him from much of the story (Watson is sent to Baskerville Hall to investigate alone for many chapters), by showing Holmes committing mistakes and inaccuracies when he does reappear, by associating Holmes with evil portents and forces, and of course by showing the great detective fastening on the wrong suspect — and, indeed, the wrong murder: “. . . the victim in Conan Doyle’s book is executed with the complicity of Holmes, and without the true murderer ever being bothered.”
Thus, concludes Bayard, the most famous mystery novella of all time features “A murder without a weapon, without a threat, without an insult, where the victim puts himself to death while the other characters applaud — it would be hard to find a finer triumph in the annals of crime.”
Is Bayard being serious? Loftus doubts it:
. . . though Bayard occasionally gallops into the high alpine meadows of literary and psychoanalytic theory, he still sticks closely to the text he’s given. And though he probably doesn’t believe half of what he’s saying, it does pass the logical plausibility test. It has an inner consistency, and that makes it worth doing — as a challenge, as a joke, and (dare one say it?) as a work of art.

Category: Detective fiction

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