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Royston, R. (1986). Creativity and Perversion by Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. Published by Free Association Books: London 1985; 172 pp.; £5.95 paperback.. Brit. J. Psychother., 2(3):239-241.

(1986). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 2(3):239-241

Creativity and Perversion by Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. Published by Free Association Books: London 1985; 172 pp.; £5.95 paperback.

Review by:
Robert Royston

Given Janine Chassequet-Smirgel's standing in French psychoanalysis this book would appear a coup for the newly-established Free Association Books. Otto Kernberg, who writes a foreword, speaks of her ‘creative exploration of the intersection of some of the most challenging and complex areas of psychoanalytic inquiry: perversion, narcissism and aggression, particularly as these relate to artistic creativity, group psychology and political ideology’. Kernberg's appetite for more, he tells us, has been whetted.

Yet Adam Mars Jones, reviewing in a London Sunday paper, dismissed the book with irritated distaste as un-rigorous, poorly written and guilty of precisely the destructive homogenisation the author discerns in the perversions.

Who is right? Mars Jones won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1982 for his story collection Lantern Lecture. Is he prejudiced against psychoanalysis? Was he insulted by the highly unflattering portrait of the artist which emerges from Chasseguet-Smirgel's pages? Is he psychophobic? Is Kernberg uncritical and indulgent to a member of his tribe? Or is there an irreconcilable intellectual conflict between psychoanalysis and the rest of the community?

But first the book's main themes. Creativity and Perversion's much reiterated central theory postulates a universal temptation to a perversion that does not necessarily involve sexual symptoms. Both this and the explicit sexual abberrations begin at the threshold of the Oedipal stage. Here the child must acknowledge the primacy of the father, his superior adult penis and his ‘genital universe’ - the real world where nothing is achieved through sham or fantasy but through struggle and realism. But, aided by a seductive, pampering mother, the child may shun humility and a necessary identification with his father, reject a whole maturational phase, and see himself as already adult and potent and a suitable partner for mother.

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