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Robinson, H.T. (2005). Samuel Beckett and the primacy of love By John Robert Keller Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. 2002. 226 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(2):603-607.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(2):603-607

Samuel Beckett and the primacy of love By John Robert Keller Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. 2002. 226 pp.

Review by:
Helen Taylor Robinson

Dr Keller's psychoanalytically informed reading of the work of Samuel Beckett rests on the hypothesis that one of this artist's main contributions to our understanding of what it is to be human resides in his depiction of the self in restless search of ‘a primary, loving other’, within a universe that will continue to withhold and deny such sustenance. The comic cruelty of such a quest, explored in his strangest of characters and plots, and in his genius for words that ‘so tell it’, is turned by Keller into a rich study of both our psychoanalytic need for such a reassuring and abidingly merciful object-relations framework for our work, and Samuel Beckett's own narrative journey, with its hopeful subtext, that underwrites the apparently more brutal, main text.

That the psychoanalyst would not dispute the place of the maternal in creating for the infant a place to ‘be’, within a world that may be ejecting, and rejecting, of that self hood, and its integration, and that Beckett, in his texts, is constantly playing with the world as no place to ‘be’, does not, however, necessarily provide us with evidence that the latter is an active quest for, and depiction of, the former. This would be a conflation of a psychic truth and a literary truth, making them one, when they each serve differing functions despite some areas of symmetry. It would also dispose of art as a symbolic construct, a conscious and deliberate act of sublimation of instinctual energy, rather than the repository of it, though it may of course be analogous to, and containing the elements of, those instincts, nevertheless transformed, in this case, by words.

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