PuzzleBook - 2019
"When I was born, my father was already no longer there." Sibylle Lacan's memoir of her father, the influential French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, is told through fragmentary, elliptical episodes, and describes a figure who had defined himself to her as much by his absence as by his presence. Sibylle was the second daughter and unhappy last child of Lacan's first marriage: the fruit of despair ("some will say of desire, but I do not believe them"). Lacan abandoned his old family for a new one: a new partner, Sylvia Bataille (the wife of Georges Bataille), and another daughter, born a few months after Sibylle. For years, this daughter, Judith, was the only publicly recognized child of Lacan--even if, due to French law, she lacked his name.
In one sense, then, A Father presents the voice of one who, while bearing his name, had been erased. If Jacques Lacan had described the word as a "presence made of absence," Sibylle Lacan here turns to the language of the memoir as a means of piecing together the presence of a man who had entered her life in absence, and in his passing, finished in it. In its interplay of absence, naming, and the despair engendered by both, A Father ultimately poses an essential question: what is a father? This first-person account offers both a riposte and a complement to the concept (and the name) of the father as Lacan had defined him in his work, and raises difficult issues about the influence biography can have on theory--and vice versa--and the sometimes yawning divide that can open up between theory and the lives we lead.