In ”Black Sun,” depression is characterized by a denial of this normal childhood prehistory, or by what Ms. Kristeva calls ”the denial of negation.” ”Negation” – the usual infantile acceptance of the loss of oneness with the mother – is unconsciously refused by the depressive, who clings to a fantasy of union with the mother instead.
The maternal object, however, turns out to be no object at all, but a ”lost Thing,” as Ms. Kristeva calls it after Lacan, never to be recovered. The ”lost Thing” is a ”preobject,” an archaic memory of identity with the mother before the inevitable emotional separation from her. The depression that Dostoyevsky or Marguerite Duras shares with Ms. Kristeva’s patients is a ”mourning” for ”the elusive preobject” before separation, whose capture is impossible to achieve.
The normal child ”leaves the crib to meet the mother in the realm of representations” – that is, a world of language and symbols. ”If I did not agree to lose mother,” says Ms. Kristeva of successful separation and the acquisition of language that compensates for the mother’s loss, ”I could neither imagine nor name her.” The depressive, however, gets it backward: ”In order to protect mother I kill myself.” This leads Ms. Kristeva to a paradoxical idea: ”My depression,” she writes, ”points to my not knowing how to lose.”
SADNESS STARTS EARLY
By PERRY MEISEL; Perry Meisel is the author of ”The Myth of the Modern.”
Published: February 25, 1990
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