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Malater, E. (2012). The Evocative Object World. By Christopher Bollas. London: Routledge, 2009, 126 pp.The Infinite Question. By Christopher Bollas. London: Routledge, 2009, 192 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 99(1):131-137.
(2012). Psychoanalytic Review, 99(1):131-137
The Evocative Object World. By Christopher Bollas. London: Routledge, 2009, 126 pp.The Infinite Question. By Christopher Bollas. London: Routledge, 2009, 192 pp.
Review by: Evan Malater, LSCW
Here is the first question: How should one review these two books of Christopher Bollas, published at the same time? One is a book of essays bearing the title of the important piece, called The Evocative Object World, and the other is a book of theory in practice, The Infinite Question. In The Evocative Object World, Bollas's most recent elaboration of object relations theory, the emphasis is on the objects themselves, on the power coming from the object as a real thing with its own inherent evocative properties. Bollas shows how we think, through interacting with evocative objects. We can therefore take these two books as two evocative objects: Touch them and read them, taking in not only ideas but the feel of the pages, the look of the type, and the visual impact of the cover art. What do they evoke? What do they mean to evoke?
Alternately, we can consider the two books as two sets of infinite questions. The Infinite Question powerfully challenges us to fulfill the promise of psychoanalysis to protect a space for free association, sometimes “radically” free association, through attending in a truly open way to the questions the patient, or rather the patient's unconscious, is trying to ask. Accordingly, we can treat these two books as a series of vital questions. Here is a question: What does it mean for these two books to be published simultaneously? In the final essay in The Evocative Object World, Bollas writes about the numerology of psychoanalysis, where, for example, one stands for the individual and two stands for the couple, mommy and daddy. Bollas sends us two books. Why two? What kind of couple can be formed from an infinite question and an evocative object? What kind of children can come from their coupling?
In fact, it would seem simpler to simply consider one a book of essays and one a book of practice and technique and leave it at that. The larger question, however, is how a theory of the evocative object would impact clinical practice. Here, form meets content.
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