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Hamilton, V. (2008). Dark at the End of the Tunnel. By Christopher Bollas. London: Free Association Books, 2004, 135 pp. I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing. By Christopher Bollas. London: Free Association Books, 2005, 170 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 95(3):528-534.
(2008). Psychoanalytic Review, 95(3):528-534
Dark at the End of the Tunnel. By Christopher Bollas. London: Free Association Books, 2004, 135 pp. I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing. By Christopher Bollas. London: Free Association Books, 2005, 170 pp.
Review by: Victoria Hamilton
Dark at the End of the Tunnel and I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing are dark, comic novellas written by psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas. Author of nine books of penetrating, wide-ranging, and often dramatic essays on psychoanalytic topics, Bollas now develops a “mixed genre,” fiction and essay, which offers the reader another “way of thinking psychoanalytically.” In addition to the more profound themes of psychoanalysis—depression, catastrophic disaster, dying, dreaming, love, and the soul—we are entertained by tales of the psychopathology of everyday life, including the foibles and struggles of the psychoanalyst, the “comic hero” of the novella.
The second novella builds on the same cast of characters as the first, a group of individuals including the hero who live and work in a North London “village.” We revisit the local meeting places: Heavens Buns, the local bakery; High Tide, the high street bookshop; the coffee house Hippo; the psychoanalyst's consulting room; and the street bench where the psychoanalyst daydreams after a day of listening. As we follow the psychoanalyst and his preoccupations on his way to and from work, we meet the four main characters of the two novellas; in turn, Goran Will, Mourncaster, Westin Moorgate, and Fred Murk direct the reader to the central themes of the two books—enactment, depression, catastrophic world events, and the state of the profession of psychoanalysis. But the second novella—I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing—is by far the more dramatic, and ultimately tragic, work.
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