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Kennedy, R. (1994). Love of Beginnings: By J.-B. Pontalis. Translated by James Greene, with Marie-Christine Reguis. London: Free Association Books. 1993. Pp. 171.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:623-624.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:623-624

Love of Beginnings: By J.-B. Pontalis. Translated by James Greene, with Marie-Christine Reguis. London: Free Association Books. 1993. Pp. 171.

Review by:
Roger Kennedy

This is a remarkable book, well worth reading and well translated. Pontalis is both a distinguished psychoanalyst and a senior editor for the French publisher Gallimard. He manages to combine his work as an analyst and as a literary editor in this piece of lyrical autobiographical writing. The work is intended to be taken as a work of literature. As he puts it in the Preface to the English edition:

At no time in its writing did I wonder whether I was speaking as a psychoanalyst or not; I obeyed only one imperative, which, moreover, wasn't formulated—that of allowing my voice to be heard, and, if I may put it like this, heard by my own ears: my voice, as if I feared, after so many years listening to the voices of others, that I might lose my own! (p. xiii).

He writes down various events from the past, without a pre-established plan, merely following the flow of his pen. On the way, he evokes a number of different 'voices'—there are accounts of aspects of his childhood, his family, schooling, encounters with Sartre and Lacan, and his coming to grips with psychoanalysis. In addition, the book is a meditation, in often highly expressive language, on language itself. Time and again, he comes up against both the ability of language to evoke and express meaning and also its silences and limits, or, at times, its ability to erase the personality. This is a text about the power of words to reveal and conceal, but also about how meaning may arise just as words appear to fail: 'When words fail, it is because, without realizing it, one is about to touch a different earth' (p.

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