LIFE WITH LACAN
Translated by Andrew Brown
128pp. Polity. 16.99 [pounds sterling] (US $19.95).
978 1 5095 2501 0
TALKING TO BRICK WALLS
A series of presentations in the Chapel at Sainte-Anne Hospital
Translated by Adrian Price
126pp. Polity. 16.99 [pounds sterling] (US $19.95).
978 0 7456 8242 6
No figure in the history of psychoanalysis, so rich in controversies and schisms, has proved as divisive as Jacques Lacan. In Britain, Melanie Klein's heterodox contributions provoked equally fraught disputation; like Lacan, she was hailed by her followers as the truest inheritor of the Freudian legacy and denounced by her detractors as its heretical traducer. But the differences are as instructive as the parallels. The uneasy peace brokered between the factions during the British Psychoanalytical Society's so-called Controversial Discussions of the 1940s was sealed in large part by broad agreement on the technical parameters of psychoanalytic practice. Conformity to rules governing the physical setting and timing of sessions, and abstemiousness regarding personal disclosures and contact beyond the consulting room, could be relied on regardless of the theoretical affiliations of the analyst or their attitude to Klein's theories.
This careful and strictly artificial separation of practice from theory enabled psychoanalysts of different persuasions to coexist collegially. Underlying the compromise was a wariness, shared by the parties in dispute, of the destructive consequences of institutional splitting and the unedifying comedy of proliferating rival clinical and training bodies, set against one another by what Freud famously called the narcissism of small differences. (Elisabeth Roudinesco notes in her book Jacques Lacan (1993) that, within a decade of Lacan's death in 1981, no fewer than thirty-four separate associations were claiming his analytic inheritance.)
Life with Lacan, Catherine Millot's memoir of her experience as Lacan's analysand and mistress during his final decade, does much to explain why this very British recourse to pragmatic, politely resentful tolerance was never going to be an option in the French context. One could easily frame this as a problem of Lacan's "personality"; but one of Millot's achievements in this slim, discreetly revealing book is to trouble any clear distinction between the man and his thought.
Forty-three years his junior, Millot entered analysis with Lacan in 1971 and remained with him as his thinking orientated itself increasingly towards the question of the "real". Lacan's various talks from this period, translated by Bruce Fink and Adrian Price with an exceptionally sensitive ear...