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Aguayo, J. (2017). The Complete Works of W.R. Bion edited by Chris Mawson; consultant editor, Francesca Bion Karnac, London, 2014; 16 vols, 4,352 pp. £750. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(1):221-243.
(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(1):221-243
Book Review Essay
The Complete Works of W.R. Bion edited by Chris Mawson; consultant editor, Francesca Bion Karnac, London, 2014; 16 vols, 4,352 pp. £750
Review by: Joseph Aguayo, Ph.D.
The culmination of years of painstaking work, research and re-editing, the publication of The complete works of W.R. Bion represents both a psychoanalytic and publication milestone that will be long remembered. Chris Mawson, the main editor, who was invited by the Bion family to undertake this project, for years made innumerable trips down the road from Radnage (in Buckinghamshire) to Farmoor (near Oxford), in order to work and collaborate closely on this project with Bion's real-life and literary widow, Francesca Bion, who also served as the consultant editor. Before and after Bion's death in 1979, Francesca Bion had worked tirelessly to preserve and disseminate her husband's work, and produced one edition after another of his later works, memoirs and Clinical seminars. The Complete works thus reflects how Bion himself would have wanted his life's work to be remembered and represented. It was also an accomplishment that Francesca lived long enough to celebrate at the book launch of this 16-volume work in London in November 2014.
A Narrative Overview of Bion's Complete Works
Turning to the structure of the Complete works itself: arranged thematically in roughly chronological order, we straight away appreciate not only having Bion's works collected in one edition, but we also benefit from the technological advances of the digital age insofar as the invaluable Volume XVI, the ‘Reference and general index’, affords innumerable search and research possibilities. There is no comparison between the exact details that are generated by the results of computerized searches over and above older methods, such as hand-collated indices. In the Complete works, one can look up virtually any topic, author or colleague known by Bion, which demonstrates how much more thorough and complete the ‘General index’ of the Complete works is than previous editions of Bion's works, some of which had no indices whatsoever. It is thus possible to have in one's hands a research volume that enables what Mawson terms “a previously unavailable degree of access to the breadth and depth of his thought” (CW, I, p. vii).
[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.]