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Mcalister, M. (2020). Abel-Hirsch, Nicola. Bion. 365 Quotes. Abingdon & New York: Routledge. 2019. Pp. 602. Pbk. £24.99.. J. Anal. Psychol., 65(1):241-243.

(2020). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 65(1):241-243

Abel-Hirsch, Nicola. Bion. 365 Quotes. Abingdon & New York: Routledge. 2019. Pp. 602. Pbk. £24.99.

Review by:
Maggie Mcalister

‘In psychoanalysis two people dare to ask questions about what they have forgotten and about what they do not know, and at the same time must be capable of living in the present. As a result they get stronger’. (Extract from Quote 254).

This beautifully composed book grants the reader access to the vast scale and scope of Bion's contribution to psychoanalysis through an extraordinary selection of 365 quotes chosen and commented upon by British psychoanalyst Nicola Abel-Hirsch and further supplemented with illuminating commentary by other psychoanalysts. Some of the ‘quotes’ are extremely lengthy passages from his work, requiring further commentary and unpacking, which Abel-Hirsch provides expertly; others are allowed to speak for themselves. The overall effect is to experience a gradual layering of impressions, associations, themes, ‘invariants’, where the voice of Bion sojourns in one's psyche.

The book is structured to take the reader through a chronological map of Bion's writings, allowing the reader to track the development of his work alongside more personal writing from his autobiography and letters, therefore contextualizing his work in the landscape of his life. Reading the quotes in chronological order reveals a palimpsest of meanings and returning themes, most moving for me the trauma of the First World War and his experience of when he ‘died’ on the Amiens-Roye Road, an event captured as though ‘the Soul should die, the Body lives forever.’ Reversible PerspectiveNameless Dread … one cannot help feel that his terror of meeting his own ghost stalks through his writings, and ‘hang across the gaping wound of my mind like a ridiculous field dressing.’ (Quote 329).

Abel-Hirsch opens the book with a series of quotes from his autobiographies The Long Weekend and All My Sins Remembered (written at the end of his life), which detail his early life, schooling, war experiences (and death).

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