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Schwaber, P. (2014). Matters of Life and Death: Psychoanalytic Reflections Salman Akhtar Karnac, London, 2011; 222 pp; £25.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(5):1039-1041.
(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(5):1039-1041
Matters of Life and Death: Psychoanalytic Reflections Salman Akhtar Karnac, London, 2011; 222 pp; £25.99
Review by: Paul Schwaber
Salman Akhtar is one of our most prolific authors and one of our best. Scholarly without obfuscating, he engages with ease, writing with fluency, clarity, detail and nuance. In this book he takes on no less than the vast expanse of life and death in psychoanalytic thought. Building upon Freud's late instinct theory, he manages to encompass within that domain a working assumption of differing but overlapping psychoanalytic perspectives - structural, ego psychological, object relational, developmental, self psychological, gendered, and relational. He provides clinical vignettes and offers comments on technique. To support his aim of furthering psychoanalytic perceptiveness, he alludes to and quotes from such diverse authorities as Freud, Klein, Anna Freud, Bion, Winnicott, Hartmann, Erikson, Loewald, Stone, Green, Schafer, and Kernberg, among others - implicitly taking cognizance of partisanships within the discipline yet eluding any prospects of narrowness. In brief, he communicates not only the vibrancy, intrigue, challenges, complexities and, for some, quarrels of our discipline but its continuing illumination of the human condition and usefulness to it.
Matters of Life and Death addresses psychosocial, moral, philosophical and, to some degree, religious aspects of subjective experience: what sustains a sense of a life worth living and what, dynamically, affects or frustrates that sense of well-being. At the beginning Akhtar states his intention to focus on “the intrapsychic vicissitudes of what it means to be truly alive and how death accompanies us at each step of our life's journey” (p.
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