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Rizzuto, A. (1996). The Babel Of The Unconscious. Mother Tongue And Foreign Languages In The Psychoanalytic Dimension. By Jacqueline Amati-Mehler, M.D., Simona Argentieri, M.D. and Jorge Canestri, M.D. Translated by Jill Whitelaw-Cucco. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1993. 322 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 65:832-836.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:832-836

The Babel Of The Unconscious. Mother Tongue And Foreign Languages In The Psychoanalytic Dimension. By Jacqueline Amati-Mehler, M.D., Simona Argentieri, M.D. and Jorge Canestri, M.D. Translated by Jill Whitelaw-Cucco. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1993. 322 pp.

Review by:
Ana-María Rizzuto

This book changes the meaning of the word, language, in psychoanalysis. “Language” as a generic singular entity does not exist as an identifiable psychoanalytic reality. What exists is the exquisitely particular language of the individual in the rich complexity of a polyphony of voices, a plurality of discourses, and a reversible stratification of developmental meanings. How do the authors arrive at this original and path-breaking conclusion? Perhaps the greatest merit of this fascinating book is that their investigation originated in clinical observations that called for theoretical explanations. Their observations centered on patients who spoke more than one language (multilinguals) from early infancy (polylinguals) or who were fluent in languages they had learned later in life (polyglots). The language in which these patients chose to carry out their analyses appeared, at first, either an indifferent matter or a technical problem.

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