of public service the journal of the New Lacanian School is"
An Anatomy of Passions by Carole Dewambrechies-La Sagna
In this fascinating account of the
intriguing life and meticulous work of Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault, the
psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carole Dewambrechies-La Sagna, gives us the
opportunity to become further acquainted with the man Lacan referred to as his
‘only master in psychiatry.’ This text provides us with a detailed and
insightful description of de Clérambault’s groundbreaking contributions to
psychiatry on erotomania and mental automatism, emphasising the precision and
perspicuity with which he differentiated the manifest phenomena from psychosis
that there is much more to what made de Clérambault the man that influenced
Lacan more than any other in the field of psychiatry. He was an attentive and
skillful interviewer of psychiatric patients and was the psychiatrist at the
Special Infirmary of the Paris Prefecture of Police. During the twenty years he
worked there, he issued more than twelve thousand certificates and it was he
who had to decide on whether the prosecuted, who had often committed a passage à l’acte, would be hospitalized.
He was also quite resented and targetted by the surrealists. This bachelor, de
Clérambault, eventually committed suicide by shooting himself in front of his
bedroom mirror. Certain aspects of his life will always remain unknown.
Clérambault’s fascination with Arabic draping, of which he took thousands of
photographs whilst in north Africa, seems to have been more than a mere
artistic interest. His lecturing at the School of Fine Arts in Paris on drapery
and the way fabrics fold depending on what is underneath is not simply a
peculiar side of de Clérambault’s endeavours. His interest in movement,
reflected in his fascination with drapery, is evident also in his meticulous
study of psychotic phenomena, of their differentiation and the search for what
underlies them, such as the role of mental automatism in delusional phenomena.
Carole Dewambrechies-La Sagna on de Clérambault can only make one want to learn
more about this mysterious figure and the immense contributions he made to
psychiatry and, through Lacan, to psychoanalysis. Undoubtedly, de Clérambault
can be counted among those, like Lacan, whose praxis left nothing the same in
the field they dealt with. It seems that psychoanalysis owes him much more than
meets the eye.