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LaFarge, L. (1995). Melanie Klein: Volumes I & II. By Jean-Michel Petot. Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1990 & 1991, 313 pp. & 281 pp., $40 each volume.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:606-610.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:606-610

Melanie Klein: Volumes I & II. By Jean-Michel Petot. Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1990 & 1991, 313 pp. & 281 pp., $40 each volume.

Review by:
Lucy LaFarge

Jean-Michel Petot's scholarly two-volume study of Melanie Klein, published in France in 1979 and 1982, offers the American audience a detailed explication of the historical development of Klein's thought. Klein's writing was often evocative rather than systematic, and she elaborated later theoretical paradigms without fully incorporating or reworking earlier concepts. In addition, Klein's later concepts of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions are far better known in the United States than her earlier work on symbolization and the early Oedipus complex. Hence, Petot's tracing of the origins of Klein's work is particularly valuable.

This is a difficult book, lengthy and often overinclusive. In part because of his reworking of earlier Kleinian themes in the light of later ones, Petot's emphasis is different from that of most American analysts who have drawn upon Klein: the figure of the parents, united in the primal scene, rather than the breast or the mother, dominates his narrative. However, his tracing of the vicissitudes of this combined parental figure adds an interesting dimension to our reading of Klein and of French psychoanalysts who have drawn upon her work.

Although Petot begins his study with a brief sketch of Klein's early years, readers who are interested in the interrelation of Klein's life and work, and the controversial interplay of her ideas with those of her contemporaries, will be far better served by Grosskurth's recent biography (1986). Interestingly, Petot takes a decidedly non-Kleinian view of the Reizes family, Klein's family of origin, as victims of circumstance rather than psychopathology.

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