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This review is taken from PN Review 6, Volume 5 Number 2, January - March 1979.

LACAN FROM THE CENTRE Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, translated by Alan Sheridan, Tavistock Publications.

A few months ago, a visiting French professor was lecturing to a British university audience on the influences underlying contemporary French culture. The blackboard was progressively covered with well-known names, but at the very centre one was lacking. After the lecture, a question from the audience finally brought up the name of Lacan, and immediately it was written up in that central space. It was as if it had been designed for him all along.

Anecdotes of this kind seem to crowd in upon whoever attempts, from whatever point of view, to assess the importance of Lacan and to explain his writings. Doubtless this is because, as a practising psychoanalyst and as a leader of 'seminars' which attempt in some measure to recreate in public the dialectical relationship of analyst and patient, he stands in relation to his own language in such a way as to defy the critic's attempt to summarize and appropriate. As Philippe Sollers has testified of his own attendance at the famous open seminars in 1964, the durable impression is not of what is said, but of the peculiar energy involved in saying it: 'It was the first time that I had heard someone holding discourse so as to keep back its meaning, its import . . . The first time that speech, by way of a language and a body, seemed to me to turn back on itself in order to go further than itself' (1).

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