Last year saw the centenary of the Christmas Truce of World War One – the remarkable event in which soldiers from supposedly ‘enemy’ sides spontaneously decided to meet in No Man’s Land to exchange gifts, play football and wish each other a happy Christmas — much to the disapproval of their leaders, who promptly prohibited such unpatriotic fraternising under threat of court-marshall. To mark this anniversary we posted a photograph from the event, together with a quotation from a contemporary veteran, the former SAS-soldier and founder of Veterans for Peace UK, Ben Griffin: “It is important to remember the truces today only if we are willing to foster in the present the spirit of those who on Christmas Day 1914 put down their weapons and walked out to meet the enemy.”
This book, whose writing spans 33 years, records a series of experiments in dramatizing Bion’s A Memoir of the Future. The main project was an unfinished film made in Delhi in 1983 under the auspices of Donald Meltzer, Martha Harris, and the Roland Harris Educational Trust.
The Motive for Metaphor can be thought of as a small anthology: each chapter a kind of meditation (perhaps to start the reader on a longer meditation). Each focuses on a poem, sometimes two; on poetry in general; on poetry and psychoanalysis; on thought itself. The poems are beautiful and would be even in the absence of discussion. But I hope the discussion will deepen the reader’s appreciation – of both the poems themselves and of the way the poetry sheds light on the psychoanalytic process.
Why should we study killing? One might just as readily ask, Why study sex? The two questions have much in common. Every society has a blind spot, an area into which it has great difficulty looking. Today that blind spot is killing. A century ago it was sex.
Part of the reason for our lack of knowledge in this area is that combat is, like sex, laden with a baggage of expectations and myths. In the same way that we did not understand what was occurring in the bedroom, we have not understood what was occurring on the battlefield. Our ignorance of the destructive act matched that of the procreative act.
I have been fascinated by images ever since I can remember. How embarrassing for my mother, proudly introducing her three-year-old son to the principal of the school at which she taught only to have the little one say, “You’re a whale.” To this moment, I can see myself seeing this good man as a whale as vividly as the instant it happened. His body and demeanour became a prompt for a waking dream image selected from swarms of inner possibilities, seas of images within. For the little boy, people were not only people. They also were these images and, at times, this led to trouble.
Although it was the object of numerous publications by ethnologists from the mid-nineteenth century up to the First World War, the age-old practice of totemism, well-known for its quasi-worldwide dissemination and the questions of its origins, seems to have disappeared from anthropological literature thereafter.
As Karnac Books republish four key works by the pioneering clinical psychologist, his son Alastair reflects on his achievement.
When my father died just over a year ago, the family was unsure what to do with his books. He had said he would like them published on the internet for free; either that or left alone. We did not have the capacity to post them on the internet, although David had put many articles and an internet publication on his website: www.davidsmail.info. The reaction to his death, as for example in The Guardian obituary persuaded us that we needed to do something.