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Hart, M. (1991). Stephen Kurtz, The Art of Unknowing, Aronson, 1989, 264 pp, £23.95. Free Associations, 2(4):617-623.

(1991). Free Associations, 2(4):617-623

Stephen Kurtz, The Art of Unknowing, Aronson, 1989, 264 pp, £23.95

Review by:
Melanie Hart

This is a fascinating, intense and provoking book. Stephen Kurtz passionately wants the reader to understand psychoanalysis as he does. To do this, Kurtz has to place himself as squarely as anyone may at what is undoubtedly the un-square centre of enigma. This way lie only madness or art. Kurtz is neither mad nor a poet, but in attempting to describe the further reaches of mental experience he has to find a way of speaking about the domains of both, and he makes it an exciting journey.

What spurs him in this enterprise is the wish to contribute to the contemporary debate about how psychoanalysis should account for itself. Now that we are all wise to the subjectivity of experience and the ambiguity of communication, what sense can it possibly make for psychoanalysis to continue to wish to be recognized as a science? To be scientific means to be concerned with systems and with repeatability. If the patient is to be able to discover his own liveliness in analysis, systems and repeatability simply have no place in clinical practice. The only honest way in which psychoanalytic literature can deal with this will be to give up pretensions to objectivity and to embrace the subjective. Case histories, those curious channels for psychoanalytic communication, are really short stories. Analysts are purveyors of fiction.

If

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