All Articles
All Articles

Interview: Corinne Maier


Interview: Corinne Maier

The controversial French author behind "No Kids" and "Hello Laziness" on her newest book—a biography of Sigmund Freud told through comics

by Nara Shin
on 14 November 2013

Corinne Maier—a French psychoanalyst with a background in economics and international relations from the prestigious Sciences-Po in Paris—also happens to be a best-selling author. Out of the 15 or so already under her belt, her two most controversial books encouraged readers not to have children ("No Kids") and to unobtrusively slack off at their corporate job ("Hello Laziness").

Maier's newest nonfiction book, however, won't be igniting mobs of angry parents or corporate managers. "Freud" is a biography told through comics and an homage to the influential yet often misunderstood father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. In the past, Maier has written books on a variety of renown figures such as Charles de Gaulle, Louis Pasteur and even Casanova. For "Freud," she collaborated with the young French artist Anne Simon; taking on the difficult endeavor of retelling Freud's life within 56 illustrated pages—and in layman's terms.

Simon's illustrations seamlessly transition between the real and the surreal. For example, on one page, Freud is eating a typical Austrian-style lunch and on another, she portrays Freud's use of psychedelics by having him ride a phallic mushroom and falling down using a brain-shaped parachute. It's the illustrations that catapult the reader headfirst into the inner workings of Freud's mind, but don't be fooled by the pictures—"Freud" was not written for children. Rather, it's the perfect introductory book for those of us who have constantly heard "Freud" name-dropped over and over, but were too apprehensive to go any deeper or ask questions. Maier's penchant for wittiness (Freud: "Reproduction. Isn't that the most commonplace form of immortality?" or "I love Vienna. They say it's a city with semen in the air.") balances the darker themes of repressed sexual desires to misogyny to Freud's personal struggles experiencing war and cancer towards the end of his life.

We spoke with Maier for insight into her own mind and her thoughts about Freud in the 21st century.

As a psychoanalyst yourself, how were you taught about Freud? Did you challenge his ideas as a student?

No, not at all. As a student, I studied political sciences, economy and history. Freud was not part of the program, unfortunately. When I began to read Freud, I had already finished my degrees in university. I was already 22 years old when I first read "Moses and Monotheism"—a book that I found astonishing. Later in my life, I attended seminaries in the field of psychoanalysis, and of course read the "Œuvres complètes" [complete works] of Freud.

The color theme of the book is quite interesting; it stays mostly green, orange and brown. Are these related to Freud at all?

Anne chose the colors herself, and she felt free to do so. She is the artist, I am the intellectual. This is the way we collaborate—I exaggerate a little bit, of course. It is connected to the pictures Anne has seen, and to the general atmosphere of old-fashioned Vienna—as she imagined it. I love Anne’s work. We have worked together on another graphic novel, “Marx” (that will be published very soon by Nobrow, too), and the colors Anne chose are of course different—there is obviously a lot of red.

"Freud" isn't a traditional biography in the sense that it's not just a straight timeline of events. How did you decide to set up the unique storyline that jumps back and forth between historical events, his case studies with clients, to retelling Greek myths like Oedipus, etc.?

Freud spent 70 years of his life in his office, working. There is obviously a lack of action... So we chose a storyline that mixes up his discoveries and his life, in order to be interesting for the reader.

What do you think are the most common misunderstandings about Freud?

The first one is to think that the message of Freud is to give us happiness. The second is to think that there are universal keys that apply to everybody. For example, in order to understand dreams: To say that a staircase means success—it would be so simple! It all depends on the context, on the dreamer, etc.

How can psychoanalysis be applied to current economic or political issues today?

Psychoanalysis gives precious insights about economy and politics. In fact, it was the subject of my thesis. I wrote in 1999 a Lacanian commentary (Freud+Lacan) of the “Memoire de guerre” of the General [Charles] de Gaulle. Psychoanalysis helps give fresh and new approaches of texts, events and famous historical people.

Did Freud's works have any influence on your past writings, such as "No Kids" or "Hello Laziness"?

It did. But not in a direct way. Of course, these two books are not Freudian at all. But it is a way to tell people, "Escape conformism, don’t believe in ready-made happiness, you have your own life to invent." To me, one of the aims of psychoanalysis is to try to think by oneself.

At the end of the book, you "revive" Freud from the dead. He says, "Looks like the 21st century still needs me." Do you think his influence is slowly decreasing today?

I think a lot of people know something about Freud, but at the same time we all need to read his work over and over again. His work is so often quoted and used (sometimes misused) that we tend to forget that his thoughts are still useful for us. No, Freud is not just an old-fashioned gentleman at the beginning of the 20th century. He is modern, and his texts are connected to our contemporary life—the issues he raised (about sexuality, about the purpose of life, for example) are still very important. And he is witty. He is much more than a statue in an European garden! That is why, Anne Simon and I, we had great fun trying to make him move and talk.

Who would be the next great thinker you would like to write about? Perhaps a woman?

I’d love to write a graphic novel about Hannah Arendt. She is one of the leading political thinkers of the 20th century. Jewish, she was born in Germany, and in the year 1920 she had a love-affair with Heidegger, a German philosopher who supported the Nazis. I think this incredible story sounds a bit like the biopic of a Hollywood film.

"Freud" is available for purchase from Nobrow Press for $20.

Portrait by Ewa Rudling, all other photos by Nara Shin

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible
Loading More...