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Groarke, S. (2016). The Girl Who Committed Hara-Kiri and other Clinical and Historical Essays by Franco Borgogno with a Foreword by Peter L. Rudnytsky Karnac Books, London, 2013; 402 pp; £34.94. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(4):1194-1203.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(4):1194-1203

The Girl Who Committed Hara-Kiri and other Clinical and Historical Essays by Franco Borgogno with a Foreword by Peter L. Rudnytsky Karnac Books, London, 2013; 402 pp; £34.94

Review by:
Steven Groarke

As a result of a patient having initially plunged her analyst into a great silence, paradoxically, we have an account of the subsequent analytic treatment that has the makings of a 19th century novel in its capaciousness. In therapy, as elsewhere, life needs ample room to come into its own and, as much an orchestrator as an author on this occasion, Franco Borgogno has put together a remarkably inventive text, The girl who committed hara-kiri, on early infantile trauma and the borderline psychotic transference. Borgogno makes an explicit claim on the analytic community for a ‘polyphonic’ response in his chapter on ‘Little Hans’, which, in light of the “groundbreaking and dramatic content” (p. 255) of Eissler's interviews with Max and Herbert Graf, includes a postscript to an earlier paper of Borgogno's on Freud's case history. Beyond this particular case, however, the claim on the many voices of psychoanalysis may be seen as something of an organizing principle in a series of dialogues on history and intergenerational trauma, the intrapsychic and intersubjective, transformation and witnessing, spoilt children, and working-through with patients who are difficult to reach.

Multiple rather than selective, indeed many-voiced rather than eclectic, the form of the book ideally expresses the author's long-standing commitment to the dialogical nature of psychoanalysis. Dostoevsky isn't quite the right model here. Dickens and Stevenson are probably closer to the mark; in fact, a quote from Great Expectations provides the epigraph for the second part of the book and Dickens, whose David Copperfield Borgogno quotes elsewhere in relation to abandonment and orphanage, could be seen as the guiding spirit in a book that has urgent things to say about family violence and the ill-treatment of children. I favour Dickens therefore as the appropriate model, although in the interview with the author from 2010 that closes the book, Borgogno himself nominates the Spanish poet Antonio Machado and the Portuguese writer José Saramago as “the ones who

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[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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