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Jappe, G. (1993). The Babel of the Unconscious: Mother Tongue and Foreign Languages in the Psychoanalytic Dimension: By Jacqueline Amati Mehler, Simona Argentieri and Jorge Canestri. Milan: Raffaello Cortina, 1990, 388 pp., L43,000.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:862-866.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:862-866

The Babel of the Unconscious: Mother Tongue and Foreign Languages in the Psychoanalytic Dimension: By Jacqueline Amati Mehler, Simona Argentieri and Jorge Canestri. Milan: Raffaello Cortina, 1990, 388 pp., L43,000.

Review by:
Gemma Jappe

In 1985 there was a conference on denial held in Jerusalem. There I read a paper on denial in the use of language, referring to the excitement and superego relief when one moves from one language into another. The response was almost overwhelming; many people came out to tell about their personal experiences and fates concerning language abandonment and (re-)acquirement in the course of their lives.

In spite of the lively personal interest shown and of people's obvious desire to talk about it, the problem hardly seems to exist in the official psychoanalytic consciousness as represented in literature and in clinical presentations. As Martin Wangh put it on the same occasion, relating to his training analysis (as both he and his analyst were refugees from Germany), "Dieses Problem würde in Gemeinsamkeit verschwiegen" ("The problem was kept in mutual silence"). This state of affairs has now been substantially changed by the appearance of the book by Jacqueline Amati Mehler, Simona Argentieri and Jorge Canestri.

We were used to thinking about "psychoanalysis and language."

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