The Ferenczi Renaissance: Past, present, and future*

By: Carlo Bonomi & Franco Borgogno

There are essentially two elements that have favored the revival and spread of Ferenczi’s legacy in contemporary psychoanalysis. The first is the publication in 1985 of The Clinical Diary, which was kept by Ferenczi from January 7 to October 2, 1932, shortly before his premature death in 1933. The publication of the Diary was continually postponed because of the negative atmosphere that surrounded Ferenczi, and was in the end made possible by the courage and determination of Judith Dupont, who had in 1970 become Ferenczi’s literary representative after the death of his most important pupil, Michael Balint. According Michael Balint’s plan, the Diary had to be published at the same time of the publication of some chosen letters from the Freud–Ferenczi correspondence, but this turned out not to be possible because of a veto by Anna Freud. Therefore, only after the death of Anna Freud and the publication of the Diary did the plan to publish a complete edition of the Ferenczi–Freud letters become achievable, thanks to the efforts of André Haynal and of a group of young editors, among which were Ernst Falzeder and Eva Brabant. The first volume of The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi, which included the letters between 1908 and 1913, was first published in 1992 in French. During the following decade, the three volumes of the correspondence were progressively published in various languages, fostering a new interest in Ferenczi and his work. The second crucial element in reviving Ferenczi’s legacy in contemporary psychoanalysis is the International Sándor Ferenczi Conferences, which have been a place of encounter for psychoanalysts coming from different schools and orientations, and which have in time created a space of thought inspired by Ferenczi’s ideas. The regularly held International Ferenczi Conferences have been: “The Legacy of Sándor Ferenczi,” New York, 1991; “The Talking Therapy: Ferenczi and the Psychoanalytic Vocation,” Budapest, 1993; “Sándor Ferenczi,” Saõ Paulo, 1995; “Sándor Ferenczi y el Psychoanálisis Contemporáneo,” Madrid, 1998; “Sándor Ferenczi: The “Mother” of Modern Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy,” Tel Aviv, 1999; “Clinical Sándor Ferenczi,” Torino, 2002; “Psychoanalysis and Psychosomatics: Mind, Body and the Bridge Between,” Baden-Baden, 2006; “Introjection, Transference, and the Analyst in the Contemporary World,” Buenos Aires, 2009; and “Faces of Trauma,” Budapest, 2012; “The Heritage of a Psychoanalytic Mind,” Toronto 2015; and the next International Sándor Ferenczi Conference will be held in Florence between May 3rd and 6th in 2018. Further important international conferences have been held over the years, such as the “Lost Childhood,” Trilogy, Part 1, Budapest, 2001; “Lost Childhood and the Language of Exile,” Trilogy, Part 2, London, 2001; “Mother, Motherland Mother Tongue,” Trilogy, Part 3, Paris, 2001; “Conferenczi. Hungarian Psychoanalytic Ideas Revisited,” in London, in 2004; “Sándor Ferenczi Returns Home,” in Ferenczi’s hometown Miskolc, in 2008; and in Florence (1999, 2005, 2012, 2013), London (1999, 2013), Paris (2007, 2010), Turin (2009), Berlin (2010), and Vancouver (2011), and many Ferenczi panels have also been organized within other international psychoanalytic conferences. In addition, many Special Issues of psychoanalytic journals have been devoted to the work of Ferenczi. Here we provide an incomplete list: Le Coq-Héron (No. 85, 1982; No. 125, 1992; No. 127, 1993; No. 149, 1998; No. 154, 1999; No. 155, 1999; No. 167, 2001; No. 174, 2003; No. 178, 2004; No. 212, 2013), the Revue Française de Psychanalyse (Vol. 38, No. 4, 1974; Vol. 47, No. 5, 1983; Monographie, 1995, PUF, Paris), International Forum of Psychoanalysis (Vol. 5, No. 3, 1996; Vol. 7, No. 4; 1998, Vol. 13, No. 1–2, 2004), the American Journal of Psychoanalysis (Vol. 58, 1998; Vol. 59, 1999; Vol. 67, No. 3, 2007; Vol. 71, No. 4, 2011; Vol. 72, No. 1, 2012), American Imago (Vol. 66, 2009), Psychoanalytic Inquiry (Vol. 17, No. 4, 1997; and in press March 2014). Other Special Issues can be found in the journals L’Évolution Psychiatrique, Etudes Freudiennes, Revue Internationale d’Histoire de la Psychanalyse, Psyche, Quaderni di Psicoterapia Infantile, Intersubjetivo, Thalassa – the journal of the Ferenczi Society, Revista de la Sociedad Argentina de Psicoanálisis, and Radure. An important effect of the Ferenczi renaissance has been the establishment of Societies and Centers. Here we list only the main ones. The first society created was the Sándor Ferenczi Society. This was founded in 1988 in Budapest by György Hidas and many other younger colleagues. In 2006, several important projects began to take shape, in line with the opportunity to purchase the office in the original Ferenczi villa in Budapest where he made entries into his Clinical Diary. The Ferenczi House project was outlined by Judit Mészáros and Carlo Bonomi and presented at the International Clinical Ferenczi Conference in August 2006 in Baden Baden, where the fundraising campaign began. The idea was also launched to create an International Sándor Ferenczi Foundation, with the aim of providing an international base for the project. In the fall of 2006, the Foundation was established by André Haynal. At the same time in Italy, the Associazione Culturale Sándor Ferenczi was created in Florence by Carlo Bonomi and Franco Borgogno, with the purpose of setting up a local organization. Today, the Associazione has 181 members. Other local organizations were created in France (Maison Ferenczi) and in Argentina (Association Cultural S. Ferenczi) to support the Ferenczi House project. The fundraising became a six-year long process, but finally the goal was reached, and on May 27, 2011 the apartment – located in Budapest, First District, Lisznyai Street 11 – was purchased by the Sándor Ferenczi Society and the International Sándor Ferenczi Foundation, establishing the International Sándor Ferenczi Center to serve as focus for meeting and research possibilities. In 2009, The Sándor Ferenczi Center was created at the New School for Social Research, in New York, by Lewis Aron, Adrienne Harris, and Jeremy Safran, with the purpose of sponsoring conferences and promoting research, scholarships, and publications on Sándor Ferenczi.

A significant clue to the contemporary success of the work and ideas of Ferenczi is the fact that, in the past seven years, many of the representatives of the Ferenczi’s renaissance have been recipients of the Mary Sigourney Award, a yearly prize given to individuals and/or organizations that have made significant contributions to and generated new interest and activity in psychoanalysis: André Haynal in 2007, the Sándor Ferenczi Society in 2008, Franco Borgogno in 2010, Emanuel Berman in 2011, and Judith Dupont in 2013. Another important achievement has been the donation by Judith Dupont to the Freud Museum of a relevant archive of letters, manuscripts, notebooks, and photographs related to Ferenczi’s life and work (see Judith Dupont’s description of the journey of the Ferenczi papers, 2013). The archive landed in London on May 19, 2012, and Judith Dupont named as consultants some people who know Ferenczi’s legacy well (among whom are J. Jimenez Avello, J. Székàcs, and F. Borgogno). To celebrate the arrival of the archives, the Freud Museum, the Anna Freud Centre, and IMAGO International organized from 18 to 20 October 2013, thanks to J. Székács, T. Keve, and I. Ward, an international conference entitled “Sincerity and Freedom in Psychoanalysis. A Studio Conference Inspired by Sándor Ferenczi’s Clinical Diary.” The Freud Museum is committed to making the Ferenczi archive available to all who wish to view it. A project to conserve, catalogue, and digitise the material is also underway. Finally, 2014 will see the establishment of an International Ferenczi Network and website sponsored by the main Ferenczi societies and centers. This will provide records, information, and facilities serving to connect people interested in knowing, discussing, and further developing the legacy of the Hungarian pupil and heir of Sigmund Freud.


Dupont, J. (2013). Ferenczi at Maresfield Gardens. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 73, 1-7.

* A slightly different version of the article: Editorial of the Special Number, was published in the International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 2014 Vol. 23(1), 1-3.