Reviews & Endorsements
Review by Chantal Lechartier Atlan
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Volume 23, Issue 3 September 2009, pages 281 - 282
I read “Time, Space and Phantasy” on two different levels : the first one as an invitation to travel with Rosine Perelberg through her personal time and space : from Brazil to London, eventually Paris, from her first interest in anthropology to psychoanalysis via the London School of Economics, the Tavistock Clinic, Maudsley Hospital and the British Institute of Psychoanalysis. All these different spaces create a particularly complex and rich inner experience and put her in a privileged position to write a remarkable book. The wide range of her interests is conveyed by a glance at the authors’ references : sixteen full pages ranging from Karl Abraham to C. Yorke, including English, French, American, South American psychoanalytical authors but also anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers.
The second level was a fruitful journey through metapsychological and clinical material thanks to her capacity to synthesize clearly numerous lines of thought and to enrich psychoanalytic contemporary reflection. In my opinion, despite the three nouns in the title, it is the notions of time and temporality that are the core of her book. Space and phantasy nonetheless unfold in time.
The first chapter gives us an overall view of Freud’s multi-dimensional model of temporality from the developmental model to the structural one, from the timelessness of the unconscious to the constitution of the ego “whose different timings are inaugurated by repression” (p26). To English readers, chapters two and seven will probably appear as the most original since they reflect on the notion of “après coup”. Rosine Perelberg explains why she prefers to keep the term of “après coup” rather than deferred action which in her opinion does not fully account for the reversibility of psychic life as it unfolds in phantasies, dreams and symptoms. Après coup, as it appears in Freud’s writings, is linked of course to the concept of the unconscious and to repetition which account for the constant reshaping of memories and phantasies throughout life and/or analysis. She goes one metapsychological step further in chapter seven with her distinction between “descriptive après coup” and “dynamic après coup” in the model of the distinction between descriptive unconscious and dynamic unconscious. She relates the former to clinical experience and the latter to metapsychology. And since Rosine Perelberg is no stranger to the “foreign tribe” of French psychoanalysts, it is at the Colloque de Deauville that she recently (in October 2006) developed those ideas paradoxically centered on the controversial discussions which never mention the après coup.
I read the clinical chapters (three to six ) with sustained attention and interest. Rosine Perelberg has a talent with which I am well acquainted, through our repeated French British colloquiums. This talent accounts in a lively style for the core of her clinical experience.
This is especially true in the case of Maria (chapter 4) which enlightens the reality of time or absence of time crushed by trauma. Perelberg notes her patient looked very young, as though time existed for her no more than it did for Dorian Grey. Throughout this very difficult case, we identify with the analyst‘s countertransferential difficulties, probably at times, on the verge of despair with this disheartening patient and we are made to experience the crucial meaning of time for existence : “to be or not to be… here”. I even found myself engaged in an internal discussion with Perelberg about the understanding of her patient’s two accidents : could the actual accidents during analysis stand for the two births of her sister and brother and their après coup effect on a terrifying primal scene which seems to freeze her life ?
I have chosen to concentrate on what struck me most in Time Space and Phantasy but the reader will find equal interest in the other chapters, namely “Space and time in psychoanalytic listening” (chapter eight) which centres on the analyst‘s countertransference, the predictive value of the first encounter with a patient (Patrick), or that of the first dream related to the analyst (chapter three) not to mention the observation of babies or her reflection on the infant and the infantile which widens to a reflection on psychoanalytic research.
My problem in this review is to find a controversial point…. I shall let the reader find it for himself. To sum up my opinion : Time, Space and Phantatasy are intertwined in each chapter as Rosine Perelberg’s clinic illustrates more theoretical propositions, in such a way that the reader is made to feel both intelligent and enrichened as an analyst.
In conclusion, two quotations : the first is from Rosine Perelberg herself : “the bi-directionality of the concept of après coup is exemplified in the very arrangement of the chapters in this volume. Like the mode of functioning in any analysis itself, one can have access to what took place, to the reasons that lead us to interpret in the way we chose to do at a specific time, only après coup, as there is always an unconscious dimension to the interpretation that we do not have access to at the time itself”(p10).
And I leave the final word to André Green : “This is an exceptional volume that establishes lines of communication between colleagues from countries that are marked by different traditions. Through this, Rosine Perelberg makes her own original contribution to psychoanalysis.”
Chantal Lechartier Atlan,
Paris Psychoanalytical Society