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Frank, C. (1996). Kompendium Psychoanalytischer Grundbegriffe. By Wolfgang Mertens. München: Quintessenz, 1992, vi + 337 pp., DM 78.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:1291-1295.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:1291-1295

Kompendium Psychoanalytischer Grundbegriffe. By Wolfgang Mertens. München: Quintessenz, 1992, vi + 337 pp., DM 78.00.

Review by:
Claudia Frank

The author's aim, as formulated in his preface, is to present a supplement to, actually an updating of, “The Language of Psychoanalysis” by Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis. The reader's curiosity is aroused as to how such a desirable project can be accomplished. Especially valuable here are the bibliographical recommendations (2-19) of German and English-language sources following each of the 109 alphabetically listed “psychoanalytical basic terms”—each entry is anywhere from one to ten pages long. Besides admiration, vague doubts soon arise as to how a single person can possibly fulfill the author's claim of “providing, in addition to the most important psychoanalytical concepts, not only definitions but also an overview of important developments in the respective clinical, developmental-psychological, methodological, treatment-practice or psychoanalytical-social psychological areas” (p. v). The reader searches in vain for terms like psychoanalytic process, free association, dream (or dream-thoughts), transference and countertransference, narcissism, psychic change, primal fantasy (innate knowledge, preconceptions), symbol formation. One may be permitted to ask whether his selection criterion consisted of not considering terms reaching into Freud's “dark continent,” the “unknown,” which confronts us with “not understanding.” Unfortunately, Mertens does not provide an Introduction to this project, which he defines as being a combination of glossary and handbook. He might have introduced his considerations, selections, procedures, the problem of modification of similar basic terms by the various schools, the significance of “elasticity” (Sandler, 1983) of psychoanalytical concepts, and the like. He could have cited studies such as “The Patient and the Analyst: The Basis of the Psychoanalytic Process” by Sandler, Dare, and Holder (1973), or “A Dictionary of Kleinian Thought” by Hinshelwood (1991).


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