William Boyd

Diary – 31 March 2012

Vienna. I’m here on the first leg of a short three-city tour for my new novel — Eine Grosse Zeit in German. The weather is sensational, warm and sunny, and even though we’re still firmly in March and there isn’t a leaf on a tree, Vienna’s cafés have their tables out on the sidewalk wherever possible. I’m staying in the incomparable Hotel Sacher — which probably serves the best breakfast on the planet and they cook your scrambled eggs in front of you while you wait. After a couple of interviews I have something of a gap in my schedule and decide to walk to my next appointment with a TV programme which is being filmed in the Sigmund Freud Museum, formerly Freud’s apartment and consulting rooms at no. 19, Bergasse. I saunter along beside the wide boulevard of the Ring and pause at a kiosk by a tram stop opposite the Kunsthistorische Museum for a midday beer. As I stand there sipping my cold beer, feeling increasingly mellow, a van pulls up at the traffic lights. On the side is written ‘KAFKA: Sanitär und Heizungstechnic’. I suppose it’s just feasible that you might see a van in London with ‘SHAKESPEARE: Sanitary and Heating Engineer’ printed on the side, but in this city it does give you something of a jolt.


The Freud museum is full of photographs of Freud. In most of them he is holding a small stubby cigar. Freud was an inveterate cigar-smoker, so much so that he developed a cancer in his mouth and had most of the roof of his mouth removed, obliging him to wear a crude and uncomfortable plastic orthotic palate for the rest of his life in order to be able to speak, eat and drink.

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