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Caruth, C. (2014). Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma Across Generations edited by M. Gerard Fromm Karnac, London, 2012; 262 pp; £20.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(2):402-407.

(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(2):402-407

Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma Across Generations edited by M. Gerard Fromm Karnac, London, 2012; 262 pp; £20.99

Review by:
Cathy Caruth

They transmitted only the wound to their children, to whom the memory had been refused.

(Nadine Fresco, 1984, p. 4)

This unique and important collection is traversed by stories that present a particular psychoanalytic challenge: to respond analytically to the complex struggles of people whose histories seem to enact the secret lives passed on from the distant familial past. A woman whose life re-enacts, not her own abandonment by her father, but her father's abandonment by his mother. A man who revives, unknowingly, the humiliation and obliteration of the life of his grandfather. The lives these patients live cannot immediately (or solely) be analyzed in terms of traditional psychodynamic theories and techniques because they tell unconscious stories that do not precisely belong to the people who live them: stories that return and possess those they inhabit from the secreted stories of lives they have never, strictly, known. The French psychoanalyst Nicolas Abraham described this phenomenon as the “phantom,” a “formation of the unconscious” that “passes … from the parents' unconscious to the child's” (1987, p. 289). “What haunts,” he suggested, “are not the dead, but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others” (p. 287). These secrets, as the writers in M. Gerard Fromm's collection eloquently show, are not so much the secrets of repressed Oedipal configurations as the secret histories that have, in Françoise Davoine's words, been “cut out” from the official story (p.

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