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Friedman, H.J. (1990). The Wolf Man's Magic Word: A Cryptonymy: By Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok. Translated by Nicholas Rand; foreword by Jacques Derrida. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986. 132 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:130-137.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:130-137

The Wolf Man's Magic Word: A Cryptonymy: By Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok. Translated by Nicholas Rand; foreword by Jacques Derrida. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986. 132 pp.

Review by:
Henry J. Friedman

The authors of this short but intense book write as a team, reflecting many years of collaboration on psychoanalytic projects. The style of their work is unique and will undoutedly be unfamiliar to most English-speaking psychoanalysts. Furthermore, they come to psychoanalysis from a background more related to philosophy, literature, and linguistics than is that of most American psychoanalysts. For them, the usual guidelines for collection and validation of data, so much the keystone of clinical psychoanalysis in the United States, seem unnecessary. Such insistence on limiting material to that derived from the analytic process as the basis for psychoanalytic reports and theorizing would be constraining and would interfere with what they view as creative in their thinking.

It is no surprise to find that this book has been published as Volume 37 in the University of Minnesota Press series, Theory and History of Literature. Its content, while derived from an intensive and personal study of one of Freud's case studies, From the History of an Infantile Neurosis, is decidedly more indebted to that trend in literary criticism known as deconstruction than it is to clinical or theoretical psychoanalysis. This is not a new book. It was first published in France in 1976. While it received considerable attention in the world of literary criticism, it was not published in English until 1986. The distinctly French tone of the work rests with that aspect of French psychoanalysis which sees a return to the original Freud text as the main method of expanding psychoanalytic understanding—by penetrating beyond the point that Freud, in the estimation of the new psychoanalyst-reader, was able to go at the time he produced a particular manuscript.

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