Is the Freud Museum a place where absence is staged, visualized and – paradoxically – made present? The answer may well be: yes and no. Freud’s own most memorable interpretation of a scene of staging absence is probably the one that concerns his grandson’s game with the wooden reel tied to a string. A play of throwing away till the reel disappears, and pulling it back in order to make it reappear. Gone and back again – fort and da. It is a pleasurable compensation, Freud writes, for the repeated absences of the mother, that is, of the pleasures her presence provides. How is this possible? It is because the little child’s mother is neither continuously present nor definitively lost. What is absent is not lost and can be made present again. And what is continuously present does not need to be compensated by the pleasure of playing, of creatively staging and visualizing both absence and presence. It is this game that, although no longer witnessed by Freud himself, is endlessly repeated in this museum. What is absent should not be lost, it should be staged over and over again.

Herman Westerink is Endowed Professor and Associate Professor for philosophy of religion at the Center for Contemporary European Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He did his PhD at the University of Groningen and wrote his professorial dissertation (Habilitation) at the University of Vienna. He has published many books and articles on Freudian psychoanalysis, sexuality, subjectivity and religion. Amongst others he published a monograph on Freud’s theories of the sense of guilt (2009), a monograph on and text editions of the first edition of Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (2016, 2021, with Philippe Van Haute). Also, he published a monograph on Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality (2019). Recently he published a monograph on Freud’s metaphysics of trauma (2022, with Philippe Van Haute). He is co-editor of the book series “Sigmund Freuds Werke: Wiener Interdisziplinäre Kommentare” (Vienna UP) and of the book series “Figures of the Unconscious” (Leuven University Press). He is member of the International Society for Psychoanalysis and Philosophy (ISPP/SIPP) and its Freud Research Group.