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Widlöcher, D. (2010). Distinguishing Psychoanalysis from Psychotherapy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 91(1):45-50.

(2010). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 91(1):45-50

Distinguishing Psychoanalysis from Psychotherapy Related Papers Language Translation

Daniel Widlöcher

There is a little story, quite old by now, which seems to me to epitomize quite well how ambivalent French psychoanalysts feel towards the notion of psychotherapy. It refers to the first translations into French of the well-known sentence of Freud's 1919 paper: “It is very probable, too, that the large-scale application of our therapy will compel us to alloy the pure gold of analysis freely with the copper of direct suggestion”. One finds in that context that the word plomb [lead] appears instead of the word cuivre [copper]. In fact, in the 1990s, when I used to refer to this text and talked about copper, my French colleagues would protest and ‘remind’ me that the correct word was lead! We had to wait for recent translations for this mistake to be corrected. It is noteworthy that, in French, the words lead and copper have very different connotations. Lead symbolizes heaviness and the attempts of alchemists to transform it into gold are well known. When gold is mixed with lead, lead takes away its qualities, and one is reminded of Racine's famous verse in Athalie: “Comment en ce plomb vil l'or pur s'est-il changé' [‘How into this vile lead did this pure gold change itself’]. In contrast, copper with gold make up an alloy widely used in jewellery and in metallurgy. One may regard this mistake in translation as a kind of Freudian slip, and the French, although so careful with words, have indeed been quick to adopt the slip of the translator, Anne Berman, who perhaps not insignificantly was close to Marie Bonaparte! Why this negative attitude?

This may be understood in terms of developments that took place after World War II when psychoanalysis became popular in France.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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