Hitchens on Freud’s subversive use of Irony

Ever since reading a book about introverts in the church, I have found an interest in books that sort of, you know, relate to the self-help range of books, but (hang on a minute, let me finish) are a bit more about wisdom and getting perspective.

So I turn to an unlikely hero (you might think), Christopher Hitchens, and bought Letters to a Young Contrarian, which is what it says it is. The eminently readable and fairly short treatises is an encouragement to anybody who has convictions and will in times be asked to stand up for those convictions and give an account. It’s sad that the chapter about religion is on the inconsistent side of things (but that is one area where he is weak), but the other segments are encouraging, sometimes inspiring, and in the case of the letter on irony, almost worth memorising.

On irony Hitchens recounts the story when Freud who was caught in Vienna during the Anschluss, asked the Nazis for a safe-conduct to leave. They agreed, provided that he sign a letter in which it was made clear the he had been well treated. Freud was delighted to sign the letter but asked if he could add a sentence to the end and wrote: “I can thoroughly recommend the Gestapo to anybody.

And with that thought, ladies and gentlemen, I leave you to ponder the power of subversive humour.

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