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Minonne, G. (2020). Commentary on Hatem. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(8):633-635.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(8):633-635

Commentary on Hatem

Giovanni Minonne, Ph.D.

In this article, building on the work of Freud, Lacan, Judith Butler, and other researchers on the relationship between subjectivity and language, Hatem confronts us with the challenges and opportunities regarding what is “untranslatable” in the patient’s speech.

Nizar Hatem starts his article quoting Adorno’s assertion that “language imprisons those who speak it” (p. 622). This imprisonment is made more evident when we try to translate a foreign text, and we are confronted with the impossibility of finding in our language an adequate translation of a specific foreign word. Hatem suggests that in our ordinary communications and in psychotherapy, we prefer to ignore the untranslatable present in every speech and to assume that we understand the true meaning of what has been communicated. The illusion of knowing is particularly strong in the modern man of science, the doctor, who is frequently confronted by the challenging symptoms of patients that prove to be untranslatable, and therefore uncurable. According to Hatem, this is the place where medicine and conventional psychotherapy stop, and where psychoanalysis can begin. These untranslatable “knots of incurability” (p. 622) come to occupy a crucial logic function in psychoanalysis.

Many aspects of a language are untranslatable in another language, like proper names. Hatem considers these impossibilities as evidence of the necessary limits of translatability, a consequence of the fracture between the symbolic and the real, and of the arbitrariness of language.

[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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