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Mander, G. (2006). Lost Childhood and the Language of Exile edited by Judit Székács-Weisz and Ivan Ward. Published by Imago East West and the Freud Museum, 2005; 295 pp; £15.99.. Brit. J. Psychother., 22(3):388-391.

(2006). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 22(3):388-391

Lost Childhood and the Language of Exile edited by Judit Székács-Weisz and Ivan Ward. Published by Imago East West and the Freud Museum, 2005; 295 pp; £15.99.

Review by:
Gertrud Mander

Emigration, exile and multilingualism, the subjects of this marvellous book, are central issues of our time and, as I am an emigrant myself, they are very close to my heart. So much so that some time ago, after 20 years of practising psychotherapy in London, I started a group with colleagues who, like me, came from Germany and were bilingual. We were all trained in English and mostly worked in English, although all of us occasionally spoke German with a German patient, were reading Freud in German and were interested in the question, whether psychotherapy should be given in the mother tongue, and was second-best only if experienced in an acquired language. I had had three English therapists and I had always worked in English, even with German patients, except for one case. I had switched over to writing in English, though in my first profession as a journalist I had written in German, but I was now at last asking myself why I was avoiding my mother tongue and what was the difference when I spoke or worked in one language rather than the other? Discussing these questions in the group led to an exciting exploration of what we felt about being emigrants, of being in exile but, with one exception, not refugees.

Reading the book Lost Childhood and the Language of Exile confronted me again powerfully with all these questions, and significantly deepened the ideas that had come up in our German group. It opened up the added issues of multilingualism, multiculturalism, loss of country and childhood. It tapped into the knowledge that the history of psychoanalysis is a history of exile and migration, of translation, of trying to find a promised land and an identity, of working with lost childhoods, and relating to strangers and to others. Freud in old age was, like Moses, migrating to a promised land, where the work he had written in his German mother tongue had been translated into an English Standard Edition that would disseminate it all over the world and create an international analytic community.

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