MORTAL WOUNDS by Anthony West


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Those wounded mortally in childhood by nullifying parental relationships are Mme. de Stael, the little known and much more minimally treated Mme. de Charriere, and George Sand -- and Anthony West is both too experienced and wise a critic not to realize the dangers of convening the chaise longue into a couch (""professional suicide""). Still he has not really abused the system he is applying -- Eric Berne's transactional analysis -- and had he omitted the games-playing labels, no one would argue a behavioral approach to literature so that ""writing is [more than] what he does"" but is. Mme. de Stael became a merciless woman as the direct result of her unloving parents and one follows her, equally lovelessly, through her extortionate manipulations and negotiatiohs which brought Napoleon as well as Benjamin Constant within her influence. Mme. de Charriere, who also touched briefly on Constant, was actually her superior in talent and intellect. Again with George Sand we have one of those annihilating women who had been contested early on between a hostile grandmother and ""disreputable"" mother -- a transsexual castrator (de Musset called her a seductive ghoul though the adjective seems undeserved) struggling with all the many people she sought to control including her lovely daughter Solange. In a closing section West uses Berne's system more insistently on some males with James (the ""baggy amplitudes"" of Leon Edel notwithstanding), Lawrence and Proust -- all seriously impaired chiefly by their mothers -- using their fictional worlds as surrogates for the real lives they would never live. West as always manages to be plainspoken but stylish simultaneously and in an era attuned to liberation, one is left, ironically, with the thought that the achievements of these women -- so much ahead of their time -- were due only to their own personal deficits.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1973
Publisher: McGraw-Hill