What a riveting and rigorous piece of work with which to open the door to Lacan’s teaching in the English speaking world. When asked to write a few words in memoriam, I almost flinched at a lack of knowledge of his life and work, so many would do it so much better. Then two traces of his presence emerged. One relates to his book “The Seductions of Psychoanalysis”. It came out when I was working on my doctorate in 1994. It was recommended to me by Andrew Benjamin, and I quickly acquired it, charmed by its title, and then by the intransigent and intrepid developments. It was a brilliant book, a truly courageous and enlightening accompaniment to my reading of Freud and Lacan at the time, epistemologically fluent, erudite, paced in a light gait.
Its boldness was twofold, one of taking up Freud’s early theories of seduction, followed by the commentary on the feminists’ opposition, resistance perhaps, to giving credence to psychoanalysis in the consideration of rape cases, and two, standing up to the mortifications of the desire of the obsessional. After all those years I spent at the university, Forrester’s scrutiny of the obsessional’s temporality of death appeared as godsend, illuminating and enlivening. Must one write about death to find life? Here is the quote I then found irresistible: “The obsessional waits because he has entered time that is non-existent, predicated on the non-happening of an event that did happen: he has entered an impossible world, and, just as any number becomes infinite when divided by zero, any time becomes empty, becomes pure duration, when it is deprived of anything that has actually happened. This time of pure duration is the time of the pure object: the object defined by nothing more than its duration”1. Forrester immediately saw the real effects in the wrong-footing of Lacan’s variable session, rather than “when the clock informed him that he should, in accordance with a prior agreement between patient and analyst, may well have directed at a specific sort of patient: the obsessional”.2 Forrester saw in Lacan the slayer of the obsessional’s time, its duration, its circularity that imaginarises an event to happen which does not happen. He also saw in psychoanalysis a time to reflect and to act, of solitude and of collaboration.
Then came 2007, a big event, a conference on impossible professions and false promises of the State and its masters, organised by our group in London. Among the guests were John Forrester and Jacques-Alain Miller who asked the former, the moment marked in my memory, for an opinion: “What do you think, John?” His reply seemed unassuming yet accurate, inconspicuous yet authoritative, indeed as unmasterly as it gets. And this sent me back to his opus, to the seductions of life, of reflections on death, of critique of regulation of the impossible profession of the analyst, of the need of erudition in the analytic field, and of passion to drive it – in short, the seductions of life in psychoanalysis. There is no psychoanalysis without friends who speak from the cause, and John Forrester remains one of the greatest.
1 J. Forrester, “The Seductions of Psychoanalysis – Freud, Lacan and Derrida”, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 170.
2 Ibid. p, 169.