“Freud” (short story) by Toh Enjoe
English Publication History: Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011)
Original: Japanese (Freud, 2007)
Translated by Kevin Steinbach, 2011
Synopsis: An elderly woman dies and her extended family gather at her isolated house to witness its demolition as it’s an onus to them all. When removing the twenty floor mats, they find a lifeless and life-sized Freud under each. They haul and line the Freuds out, discussing what it meant to the old woman and how it affects them. None have a deep understanding of Freud but they all agree that they’re living some sort of dream, but what does this dream mean to the dreamer? 11 pages
Pre-analysis: In Freud’s Die Traumdeutung, later abridge in English as On Dreams, Freud’s main concept is that the subconscious drives imagery in dreams to reflect its wish fulfillment, the unconscious mind distorts the meaning of information so images in dreams aren’t what they appear to be. Within the first page, Freud writes, “[E]very dream will show itself to be a senseful psychological structure which may be introduced into an assignable place in the psychic activity of the waking state.” He also said there are three kinds: (1) direct prophecy, (2), foretelling, (3) and symbolic.
Analysis: The English idiom skeletons in the closet refers to a secret that, if revealed, would be damaging to the secret-holder. While reading “Freud”, I liked to think that Freuds under the tatami mat was the Japanese equivalent phrase. The dreamscape in which the narrator finds herself is in grandmother’s house. She and her family agree that since she knows most about the psychology of Freud, that she must be the dreamer. The responsibility lies on her to save their grandmother by changing the paradigm of the dream—make grandma undead. But as she considers on her responsibility, she also reflects on the interpretation of the dream: Why had her grandmother slipped near the pond? Why are they destroying her house? Why are there Freuds under her tatami mats?
At this point in the story, the reader must analyze the speculative relationship between the woman narrator and her grandmother. She died in the garden because of a shared secret hidden there? There are destroying the house to hide that secret? Are the Freuds the crumbs of truth, lined up for all to see among the family?