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Bourdin, D. (2005). Préhistoires de famille [Family prehistories] by Alain de Mijolla Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. (Series: Le fil rouge.) 2004. 238 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(2):567-569.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(2):567-569

Préhistoires de famille [Family prehistories] by Alain de Mijolla Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. (Series: Le fil rouge.) 2004. 238 pp.

Review by:
Dominique Bourdin

This book discusses identification and intergenerational transmission, bringing together several articles that have been restructured and completed for publication here, following on from Mijolla (1981). It is based on strong arguments such as the importance of the preconscious, the widespread consideration of fantasies, the existence of unconscious identification fantasies and the relativity of family secrets. Identity is conceived here as a totality of fluctuating fragments that are interconnected by an irreducible factor, while a ‘transmitting third’ enables an intergenerational genealogical transmission to occur. These conceptions give rise to a living, flexible and dynamic conception both of identity and of transmission, which counteracts tendencies to rigidify or paralyse concepts in a defensive reification: the unconscious and the ego are convenient linguistic entities but what matters is achieving the most subtle description possible of psychic processes that are invariably complex.

The author was one of the first in France to have taken an interest over 30 years ago in clinical phenomena that he called identification fantasies and ‘visitors of the ego’, along with Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, who described them in terms of a psychic ‘crypt’ or ghost. Many others, including Serge Tisseron, Claude Nichon and Didier Dumas, have since joined their ranks, which has enabled a great deal of research to be conducted into psychic prehistory and genealogical transmissions.

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