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Harrison, A.M. (1993). 'Father, Don't you See I'm Burning?' Reflections on Sex, Narcissism, Symbolism, and Murder: From Everything to Nothing: By Leonard Shengold. New Haven/London: Yale University Press. 1991. Pp. 185 + xiii.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:1273-1274.

(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:1273-1274

'Father, Don't you See I'm Burning?' Reflections on Sex, Narcissism, Symbolism, and Murder: From Everything to Nothing: By Leonard Shengold. New Haven/London: Yale University Press. 1991. Pp. 185 + xiii.

Review by:
Alexandra M. Harrison

Shengold's book is not written for readers who are looking for a guide to psychoanalytic theory or technique, nor for those who desire an exploration of a particular psychoanalytic concept in detail or in historical context. But for readers who wish to think deeply about the narcissistic dilemma of 'all or nothing' throughout the life cycle, with a particular emphasis on the later stages of life, it is a compelling and satisfying book. The book will appeal primarily to psychoanalysts, but any reader who enjoys thinking about psychoanalytic themes in literary works will find this book fascinating.

The book is as profound and provocative as its title. The title comes from a dream told to Freud by a patient, and refers to the child's sexual excitement as he presents it to his parent. Yet the line from the dream has multilayered meaning; it collapses intense emotions and impulses channelled through the body into dream imagery, the discourse of psychoanalysis, and the search for self-fulfilment. The book describes a journey—a journey from the womb to the grave, from omnipotence to deterioration, from everything to nothing. This journey is always accompanied by sex, murder, and catastrophic loss, and those who travel it successfully emerge at the journey's end with the knowledge of having 'something'.

Shengold writes from the perspective of a psychoanalyst of adults. He illustrates the universal narcissistic struggle to reconcile everything and nothing with clinical examples remarkable for their rich use of unconscious symbolism.

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