Where Three Roads Meet
‘No one has ever quite accounted for humankind's resistance to letting well alone and misfortune's strong allure.’
Having spent many years working as a psychoanalyst, and also years as a teacher of ancient literature, Salley Vickers was eager to rise to the challenge of writing about the myth of Oedipus when invited by Canongate to rewrite a myth for their successful series in which contemporary writers retell a myth in their own style. The result is a fascinating exchange between the dying Sigmund Freud, who famously made the Oedipus Complex the linchpin of his theory of infantile sexuality, and the blind seer Tiresias, the only one to recognize the truth about Oedipus’s parentage and the ignorance in which he has lived, married to his own mother and begetting children by her.
Freud left Vienna in 1939, reluctantly, after friends worried for his survival under the Nazis (his books had been publicly burned) negotiated his escape, He was dying of cancer of the jaw, a particularly painful kind, and spent the last year of his life in the house in Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead which is now the Freud Museum. In ‘Where Three Roads Meet’ Freud, lying on his own analyst’s couch, is sporadically visited by a strange figure who arrives only when the doctor is alone, and perhaps asleep, or undergoing treatment in hospital with morphine for his painful mouth condition. The visitor turns out to be Tiresias, who has come to give Freud his own version of the events which the myth makes famous. The result is a radical exchange of views which cover the story of the myth but also Freud’s theories about psychoanalysis and reveal some of its limitations. It is also a moving account of Freud’s death and of a friendship across the centuries and through layers of reality.
Salley Vickers says, “in writing ‘Where Three Roads Meet’ I was concerned to explore different levels of reality. Freud at the end of his life was revising his theories, and going over his life’s work. So the subject of Oedipus would have been at the forefront of his mind. Because the book is about the reality of myth, and the power of imagination, I leave the exact nature of Tiresias’s ‘reality’ to the reader to decide. He may be a product of Freud’s imagination but, as Tiresias says of himself when Freud asks,
‘Who are you? Really.’
‘I am Tiresias.’
‘Not a figment of my imagination?’
‘The two are not incompatible. As you yourself might have said, Dr Freud, there is no such thing as a ”figure of speech”. For what really
is real? Are you more real than Oedipus? Or Apollo? Or the Oracle? Is a dream real?’”