Truth, Reality, and the Psychoanalyst: Latin American Contributions to Psychoanalysis (Book Review)

Author:  Lewkowicz, Sergio and Silvia Flechner
Publisher: International Psychoanalytic Library
Reviewed By: Isaac Tylim, PsyD, ABPP, Winter 2006, pp. 41-43

The scarcity of Latin American psychoanalytic books translated into English seems puzzling in light of the highly respected and prolific literature produced in Latin American psychoanalytic centers. With the exceptions of few psychoanalytic books and papers translated into English, the contributions of Latin American psychoanalysis has remained unavailable for several analytic generations, particularly the North American ones.

The reasons for this overall neglect seem to mirror socio-political circumstances that historically demarcated a linguistic and cultural barrier between the Northern and the Southern hemispheres. Truth, Reality and the Psychoanalyst: Latin American Contributions to Psychoanalysis attempts to narrow existent intellectual gaps. Publications such as this one may foster an appreciation of other distinct analytic voices leading to an appreciation of conceptual and technical differences and similarities.

Henreich Racker, Angel Garma, and Jose Bleger are exceptions among Latin American analysts. They’ve become household names on the international psychoanalytic scene. Racker’s conceptualization on complimentary and concordant identification, Garma’s work on dreams, and Bleger’s work on the analytic frame are today mandatory readings for analytic candidates across the world. These seminal contributions conveyed from the 1950s forward, the sophistication of psychoanalytic thinking in the Southern cone of Latin American. Yet, other significant work by Latin American psychoanalysts are still held in foreign libraries waiting to be discovered by the North.

Surfing bibliographical references, precursors to Truth, Reality and the Psychoanalyst: Latin American Contributions to Psychoanalysis may be found in scientific events held in Spanish speaking countries that eventually ended up in a foreign press. The first Pan American Congress for Psychoanalysis, for instance, was held in Mexico City in March 1964. This Congress attempted to overcome the multiple barriers --cultural, geographical, and language--that precluded communication between North and South psychoanalysis to take place. A record of this encounter was published in 1966. It was called Psychoanalysis in the Americas, edited by Robert E. Litman and published by International University Press. Although viewed as an historic event, few copies were either distributed or sold. In 2005, almost forty year later, Truth, Reality, and The Psychoanalyst: Latin American Contributions to Psychoanalysisrecreates Litman’s organizing principle, having analysts from the North discussing the contribution of their Latin Americans colleagues.

Another attempt to bring the South to the North is found in a 1993 FEPAL’s (Federation of Latin American Psychoanalysis) sponsored publication of Psychoanalysis in Latin America, edited by the Peruvian analyst Moises Lemlij. Joseph Sandler, President of the IPA at that time, wrote in the forward to Lemlij’s book:“With the publication of this book psychoanalysis takes on a global perspective….”

The cybernetic revolution assisted in overcoming Latin American isolation challenging Northern cultural hierarchies. Exchanges between the psychoanalytic regions increased exponentially with electronic mail. Latin American psychoanalysis gained global visibility and political status in international forums. For instance, until 1988, the presidency of the IPA was a privilege granted only to American and European psychoanalysts. The Argentinean analyst R. Horacio Etchegoyen proposed then a rotating presidency of the IPA, and he was elected as the first Latin American analyst to run the prestigious Association founded by Freud. The 37th IPA Congress was the first held in Buenos Aires in 1991, under a Latin American president. The congress was the big marker on the journey of Latin American psychoanalysis to the global scene.

The above-mentioned trend was established firmly with attention paid to contemporary Latin American publications. R. Horacio Etchegoyen’s monumental volume, The Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis was published in English in 1991. This book signified the coming of age of Latin American psychoanalytic publications in the English language. Etchegoyen’s book received a warm welcome at the 1997 International Psychoanalytic Congress in Barcelona. The Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis brought to the English-speaking world numerous lesser known Latin American analysts, enriching the existent theoretical, technical, and clinical repertoire.

American-trained analyst Nancy Hollander began to study the fate of psychoanalysis in Uruguay and Argentina under the military regimes. Thanks to Hollander, English speaking readers had access to Marie Langer’s Motherhood and Sexuality (1951) forty years after its publication in Buenos Aires. Nancy Hollander’s translation of this pioneer work on femininity and psychoanalysis, as well as her extensive reports on the analyst’s political and socially committed work in South America, had a powerful impact on American psychoanalytic intellectual circles. Subsequent to Hollander’s translation, an issue of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association was devoted to Langer’s hitherto unknown work.

Truth, Reality, and The Psychoanalyst: Latin American Contributions to Psychoanalysis appears as a renewed attempt to import the Latin American psychoanalytic “South” (Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay) to the psychoanalytic “North” (USA and Europe). As previous books have tried with a mixed degree of success, this edited compilation intends to convert unidirectional analytic North-South “publishing traffic,” to a bi-directional one. It is likely that this book may prove to be more relevant to American psychoanalysts than to Europeans, because Europeans, especially English and French analysts associated with Kleinians and Lacanians, respectively, have managed to establish and maintain ongoing reciprocal exchanges with South Americans from the early 50s onward (Balan, 1991,Tylim, 1996).

In preparing for this project, the editors concentrated on defining eight relevant concepts and asked Latin American psychoanalysts to expand on them. Each author was assigned a discussant with the mission to offer a commentary on one of the chapters written by a South American colleague. Although some of the discussants are originally from Latin American, all of them seem to share a common emigration pattern: at some point of their careers they relocated to the “North” where they’ve being practicing for decades. The analysts that emigrated--perhaps for political reasons not made explicit in the book--respond to the ones that have stayed behind.

In selecting analytic thinkers, Sergio Lewkowicz from Brazil and Silvia Flechner from Uruguay (editors) were very much aware of the trials and tribulations suffered by Latin American analysts who for decades worked under dictatorship regimes that constantly threatened the survival of our discipline. The editors stressed the “truth” in the practice of psychoanalysis in Latin America, making it a central topic of their reflections. Chapter 1 is devoted to this issue. However, the reader would have welcomed more chapters addressing the political “truth” of analytic practices during the military dictatorship.

A foreword from the past and present presidents of the International Psychoanalytic Association (the French, Daniel Widlocher and the Brazilian, Claudio Laks Eizirik) opens the nine papers discussed by eight commentators. R. Horacio Etchegoyen and Samuels Zysman (Chapter 1) present the history of psychoanalysis in Latin America. They include a courageous account of psychoanalysts working under extreme conditions. This section highlights the links between technique, theory, and ethics and the dilemmas confronted by those analysts working with people who were engaged in the political battle. References to psychoanalysts who were persecuted or disappeared during military dictatorship, as well as the case of a Brazilian analytic candidate who participated in torture sessions, force readers to look in their own backyards where the collaboration of mental health professionals with interrogation practices of prisoners of war made front page news.

Beatriz de Leon and Ricardo Bernardi (Chapter 2) report on countertransference and the vulnerability of the analyst, while Madeline Barenger (Chapter 3) and Luis Kancyper (Chapter 3) apply field theory to the psychoanalytic encounter and the area of intergenerational confrontations. Susana Vinocour-Fishbeim (Chapter 4) presents a fascinating work on the relationship between psychoanalysis and linguistics, a dear subject of a group of Argentinean analysts. Antonio Muniz de Rezende’s (Chapter 5) paper stresses the experience of truth in clinical practice, and Juan Francisco Jordan-Moore (Chapter 6) challenges the dichotomy of external reality/internal reality. Norberto Marucco (Chapter 7) writes about psychic zones and the process of what he calls “unconscientization.” Alejandaro Tamez-Morales follows with a chapter on dreams written under the influence of Angel Garma. Lastly, Virginia Ungar (Chapter 9) concentrates on the development of child and adolescent psychoanalysis in Latin America. Over 300 hundred reference books and papers plus a comprehensive thematic index will satisfy contemporary analysts’ thirst for a cross-cultural dialogical umbrella within psychoanalysis.

In 1993, Kernberg recognized the strong development of psychoanalysis in Latin America, contrasting it to the relative stagnation of its American counterpart. He attributes the success of psychoanalysis in Latin America to the joint participation of non-medical and medical analysts in the psychoanalytic organizations, and to the more open and flexible nature of psychoanalytic education.

“We (Americans) have attempted to console ourselves by assuming that their (Latin American) standards are lower, that what they are doing is probably not true psychoanalysis, and that they are simply going through a phase that American psychoanalysis experienced in the 1950s and 1960s. Such ideas, I believe, are more reassuring than factual….” (Kernberg, p.61)

Truth, Reality and the Psychoanalyst: Latin American Contributions to Psychoanalysis invites analysts from the North to question old assumptions about their position in the analytic intellectual hierarchy. The latent message underlying this publication seems clear: a more open, less prejudicial attitude towards foreign voices is prone to enrich the psychoanalytic field and promote the development of our theory and practice.

References

Balan, J. (1991). Cuentame Tu Vida. Buenos Aires: Planeta.

Kernberg, O. (1993). The current status of psychoanalysis. Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association, 41, 45-62.

Lemlij, M. (Ed.). (1993). Psychoanalysis in Latin America. Lima: FEPAL and IPA.Litman, R.E. (Ed.). (1966). Psychoanalysis in the Americas. New York: International University Press.

Tylim, I. (1996). Psychoanalysis in Argentina: A couch with a view. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6, 713-727.

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