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Being Lacan's daughter


The website of Asymptote Journal has a translated excerpt from the book Un père, puzzle (A father, puzzle) by Sybille Lacan, the second daughter of Jacques Lacan and Marie-Louise Blondin. Originally published in 1994, the book recounts Sybille’s distant relationship with her father and her intense affection for her mother. Sybille committed suicide in November 2013 at the age of 73. Here’s a portion of the excerpt:

The subtitle puzzle derives from the fact that this text was not written in a consistent manner. In the midst of disorder, I have written what I would call “bursts,” or rather, I have followed their imperious unveiling in my memory, resolving—because to do otherwise would have been impossible—against arranging them until the end. I have written, so to speak, “blindly,” without any precise design, whether in the formal sense, or as forethought; without knowing which scene, which image, I would wind up with once the bursts, the morsels, the pieces were assembled …

In my memories, I didn’t meet my father until after the war (I was born at the end of 1940). I have no sense of what happened, I never questioned my mother about the subject. Probably he “passed through.” But in my reality, it was my mother who was there, no one else. An absence among others, it was never otherwise. We knew we had a father, but fathers were not there, apparently. For us, Mother was everything: love, security, authority.

An image of the period that remains fixed in my memory, as though I’d preserved it in a photograph, is the silhouette of my father in the doorway, one Thursday when he’d come to see us: immense, swathed in a vast overcoat, he was there, appearing burdened already by who knows what weariness. A custom had been established: he would come to Rue Jadin once a week for lunch.

He called my mother “vous” and addressed me as “ma chère.” My mother, when she spoke of him, would say “Lacan.”

She had counseled us then, at the beginning of the school year, when we had to fill out the ritual questionnaire, to write down the word “Doctor” in the blank asking for Father’s profession. In those days, psychoanalysis was hardly distinguished from charlatanism.

Image: Sybille Lacan as a child.