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Gedo, J.E. (1986). Creativity and Perversion: by Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. London: Free Association Books, 1984. 172 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 55:656-657.

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(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:656-657

Creativity and Perversion: by Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. London: Free Association Books, 1984. 172 pp.

John E. Gedo Author Information

Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel has for some time been one of the leaders of psychoanalysis in France and one of the few French contributors to the discipline to have found an audience in the English-speaking world. A few years ago she was invited to occupy the Sigmund Freud chair at the University of London, and the lecture series she offered there is now presented in the volume under review. Because no credit is given for the translation into English, we must suppose that this task was undertaken by the author herself. In any case, the language fails to do justice to Chasseguet-Smirgel's thinking—sophisticated French writing does not seem to preserve its cachet in the prosaic ambience of America.

To illustrate the difficulties of such a sea change: I was asked to review this book because I have also written about creativity of late. Imagine my surprise upon discovering that Chasseguet-Smirgel is scarcely concerned with artistic or scientific creativity; her principal thesis is the unarguable proposition that a perverse solution to the dilemmas of early childhood is a creative act in itself. Yet I may well be mistaken in my understanding of the author's intentions, for there is a persistent undertone to the book suggesting that creativity (in some of its forms? or all?) is nothing but an extension of this perverse solution to new realms of factitiousness. I am afraid to assert that the confusion is not mine, although I do not suffer from excessive modesty; I understand it is the fashion in Paris not to write too plainly, lest the provincials grasp one's meaning!

Chasseguet-Smirgel's book is a difficult treatise on the genesis of perversions. Yet her hypothesis seems relatively simple. She believes that the future pervert, encouraged by the complicity of a mother who regards the child as a narcissistic extension of herself, constructs the fiction that no significant differences separate the sexes or the generations. This straightforward clinical proposition might be tested empirically, but the need for such validation does not concern the author. Perhaps she is taking for granted the view widely held in France that psychoanalysis is not a scientific discipline. At any rate, she seems to regard her hypothesis as an established truth because, in this volume, as in previous publications,

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