The French Review 60.1 (1986): 154-155.
PERRIER, FRANÇOIS. Voyages extraordinaires en Translacanie. Paris: Lieu Commun, 1985. Pp.190. 90 F.
[Reprinted with the permission of The French Review]
Imagine a volcanic eruption of enormous magnitude which resulted in the creation a vast archipelago. Then, imagine an extraordinary voyage to this archipelago to view few of its islands and to interview some of their inhabitants, citizens of the turbulent country at the foot of the smoldering volcano before the cataclysm. Such is the metaphorical voyage which François Perrier proposes in these reflections, a trip to the archipelago of Translacanie, after the disappearance of that volcanic force of contemporary French psychoanalysis, Jacques Lacan. The largest section of these mémoires, entitled Les Iles, begins in the summer of 1980 when a sailor/joumalist, called "the Pacha," happens upon the Ile des Rescapés whose sole inhabitant is none other than François Perrier, formerly a leading practitioner of Lacanian psychoanalysis who broke with the Master in 1969 to form a splinter sect, le Quatrième Groupe, and who subsequently suffered paralysis of the legs and official ostracism by the medical community from practicing psychiatry. Through a series of wide-ranging "conversations" with the Pacha, Perrier describes the inhabitants of the archipelago (living on the symbolic Ile des Femmes, Ile des Trépassés, Ile des Bien-Portants, and, of course, "la fameuse Ile de Skholé où règne l'Ecole freudienne," pp. 19-27), and then recounts the successive episodes the origins, foundation, and steps toward disintegration of the various psychoanalytic groups led by Lacan outside the orthodox International Psychoanalytical Association with supporting material in an appendix (e.g., a tableau des scissions of the various psychoanalytical groups; the Quatrième Groupe's founding document; a "Who's Who in Translacanie"). As a participant in these events from the 1954 Congrès de Rome onward, Perrier provides insight not only to the divergent groups' chronological development culminating in the dissolution of the Ecole freudienne in 1980, but also to personal and professional crises which contributed to the difficult, sometimes fatal, relationships between Master and disciples in general, and to the elaboration and failure of particular elements of Lacanian theory. Then, in two subsequent sections, Perrier "returns" to Paris, in an attempt to come to grips with his earlier breakdown (pp. 145-57), and finally, through letters and journal entries dated from July 1985 to 1987, he retreats to the Cape Verde archipelago where he "disappears" in a plane crash, this episode completed by a final "petit poème en forme d'épilogue" (pp. 159-69).
As these remarks indicate, Perrier's mémoires are not without interest, especially as another contribution to the continuing demythologization of "le Grand Jacques" (as the inner circle of disciples--Perrier, Wladimir Granoff, Serge Leclaire--referred to Lacan). But, from the perspective of comprehending the relationship of the Lacanian phenomenon to contemporary French culture, many more rewarding books are available:in English, Sherry Turkle's Psychoanalytic Politics: Freud's French Revolution (New York: Basic Books, 1978; Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1981) is an essential study of "Fren Freud," to which one might add Stuart Schneidermann's Jacques Lacan: The Death of an Intellectual Hero (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983). In French (also available in English translation), François Roustang has provided a thorough critique of Lacanism in Un Destin si funeste (Paris: Minuit, 1976) and ... Elle ne le lache plus (Paris: Minuit, 1980), and Catherine Clément's memoires, entitled Vies et légendes de Jacques Lacan (Paris: Grasset, 1981), are important not only for an insider's view of the Lacanian schisms, but also for Clément's lucid explanations of many psychoanalytical concepts. While Perrier's reflections correspond fully to the current ouverture concerning both Lacan's teachings and person ("Maintenant, les langues se délient. Le temps du deuil passé, l'heure de la critique pourra sonner," p. 115), the reader is frequently forced to witness Perrier working through his well-documented hysterical reactions (notably, his paralysis and two suicide attempts) to what he calls leffet Lacan (p. 114). Yet, despite frequent self-indulgence, Perrier's reflections are consistently entertaining, stylistically brilliant, and certainly appeal both intellectually and culturally beyond the 'anguished few' of Lacanian rescapés.
Charles J. Stivale
Wayne State University