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Kite, J.V. (2009). The Struggle Against Mourning by Ilany Kogan Jason Aronson, New York, NY, 2007; 262 pp; $39.95. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(4):928-930.
(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(4):928-930
The Struggle Against Mourning by Ilany Kogan Jason Aronson, New York, NY, 2007; 262 pp; $39.95
Review by: Jane V. Kite
This is an ambitious book, large in scope and large in its subject matter, but well worth reading in its entirety. Several chapters have appeared elsewhere as papers or presentations between 1993 and 2004; this volume gathers all of Kogan's work on mourning at both the personal and societal levels. It is related most immediately to the author's work on the Holocaust and its aftermath in survivors and in the transgenerational transmission of holocaust trauma to children.
Beyond its clinical significance as a record of many cases in which trauma linked directly or indirectly to the Holocaust is explored, interpreted and theorized, in my view the book's main contribution is to our literature on mourning in general and most specifically, as the title suggests, to the long and often intractable struggle againstmourning. It is the universal difficulty in mourning to which Kogan turns her attention, while reminding her readers that:
The ability to mourn and the capacity to bear some helplessness while still finding life meaningful are the objectives of the analytic work in this book.
I am reminded here of a sentence from Bion, quoted by Grotstein and highlighted by Ferro (2008): “We become what we agree to suffer” (p. 883).
Key in this narrative of both successful and unsuccessful mourning is the author's own struggle against mourning, embedded most deeply in what she describes as her own unresolved mourning for Romania, her country of origin. Kogan tells us at the outset that she has realized that in earlier publications she chose to present cases with mostly successful results, while in this book she includes less successful cases, often laced with candidly presented countertransference difficulties.
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