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Brearley, M. (2008). Encounters with Melanie Klein: Selected Papers of Elizabeth Spillius by Elizabeth Spillius Routledge, London, 2007; 264 pp; £21.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(2):448-452.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(2):448-452

Encounters with Melanie Klein: Selected Papers of Elizabeth Spillius by Elizabeth Spillius Routledge, London, 2007; 264 pp; £21.99

Review by:
Michael Brearley

This is a fine book, both as a refreshing and illuminating account of Melanie Klein's thinking, and as an expression of Elizabeth Spillius's own attitudes to and work in psychoanalysis.

Spillius has done something that few analysts do, which is to spend time in an archive. She has discovered in the Melanie Klein Archive a version of Klein that is considerably at odds with her reputation and image, at least in some quarters in the British Psychoanalytical Society and beyond. According to the image, Klein often interpreted at great length, with little hint of uncertainty. Some of her writing gives an impression of dogmatism, and of interpretation focusing on the negative transference. This image is produced partly by aspects of her published work, partly by her need to fight for her place as a (or, as she felt, ‘the’) genuine inheritor and developer of Freud's thought (and to avoid, during the Controversial Discussions and beyond, being treated as a heretic), partly by the fact that Kleinians were sometimes more Kleinian than Klein, partly as a result of projection and anxiety from others.

Spillius shows Klein to be more tentative, both in coming to theory and in her clinical work. In a lecture, Klein describes the analytic attitude: she emphasizes the need for “a combination of eagerness and patience in which the analyst is both detached from and absorbed by the patient, humble but confident” (p. 71); (and the need for) “balance: between interpretation and listening (‘leaving room for the patient to express fully his or her stories’), between ego and id, between rigour and flexibility; between the transference situation, the remembered past and the unconscious past; between waiting on the one hand and relieving anxiety as soon as possible on the other.

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