In the essay Psychopathology of everyday life (1901), alongside slips, mistakes and failed acts, Freud analyses the forgetting of proper names. And he tells an episode that happened in Dalmatia, while he was travelling by train in the company of a stranger. Speaking of his visits to Italy, he asked the man if he had ever been to Orvieto to see the famous frescoes of… In place of the name he sought, Signorelli, Botticelli and Boltraffio came to mind. What had “disturbed” the memory of that name? Reflecting on the immediately preceding topic of their conversation, Freud realised that he had left it in suspense because it was too delicate to be confronted with a stranger. After having narrated an anecdote about the customs of the Turks who lived in Bosnia Herzegovina, “people who used to be resigned to their destiny”, Freud wanted to tell a second anecdote, which was linked to the first in his memory: “These Turks place erotic enjoyment above all else and, in case of sexual disturbances, they let themselves be seized by a despair that strangely contrasts with their resignation in the face of the danger of death: ‘You know very well, Herr – had said a patient to his doctor –, when you can no longer do that life has no value anymore’”.
Freud writes that, in addition to having given up on telling this anecdote, he had distracted his attention from ideas that could be connected to the theme “death and sexuality”, because he was still under the influence of the news of a patient for whom he was so lavish, but that he had taken his own life “because of an incurable sexual disturbance”. Bosnia, Herzegovina and Herr had become part of a series of associations between Signorelli, Botticelli and Boltraffio, thus Freud, who “wanted” to forget something, had forgotten something else, against his will. Result: his intention to forget was neither entirely successful nor entirely failed. Or, rather, it was what he called repression that had neither succeeded nor failed entirely: while attracting the name Signorelli into oblivion, he had left traces of it in the two replacement names, Botticelli and Boltraffio, which had become true “compromise formations”.
Why are there those who believe that something can question the value of life? Perhaps, this was the question that Freud asked himself and, perhaps, he regretted not being able to provide his patient with any support to let the sexual disturbance (in the German text Störung) enter the story and become, at most, a simple linguistic disturbance (Störung), a name that enters into oblivion, rather than a sign of the end of virility.
Whoever represents the ideal life always finds something that disturbs its realisation. And it is something considered substantial, fundamental and founding. The disturbance is structural, it cannot be eliminated in favour of mastery over speech and life. However, there is someone who believes in performance and in the faculty as means to success, from which he considers himself excluded, for this reason he envies luxury, pleasure, joy, life itself. And he becomes the victim, the subject of predestination, of forced choice. “If my daughter hasn’t wanted to talk to me for five years, what can I do? I just have to remove the trouble”, wrote that father before pointing a gun to his head. The daughter who denies herself or the daughter who is denied? The daughter as a doll-mother is the guillotine, the one to lose one’s head (or memory?) This can happen in the realism of subjectivity, which stands in the place of the thing, of the narcissism of the word. Then, clinging to causality and objectivity, everyone lends himself to the ceremonials and precepts functional to metamorphosis: he must fill his alleged shortcomings, become feminised or virilised, to make one, to become androgynous.
But the originary memory cannot be lost and everyone – in the parody of the family war, of the memories that weigh and the family ghenos – can find the linguistics of experience and the linguistics of success. Each, not everyone can become capital, because each is not a subject but an intellectual statute. How? Not by being bound to an ideal place to take refuge in an attempt to get rid of the disturbance, but by travelling: talking, doing, writing and reading, that is, returning the acquisitions of research and enterprise as quality. By reading, each becomes capital, not becoming the subject of dialogue, not seeking the demonstration, recognition and confirmation of the idea of oneself and the Other as master or slave, victim or executioner.
The disturbance is the memory itself in its passing on and in its betrayal. By virtue of tradition and the betrayal of memory, repression is never entirely successful nor entirely unsuccessful. And forgetfulness is not a disturbance, but memory that wears thin in the contingent.
In no case is the disturbance the negative to be eliminated in order to live an entirely positive life. It is impossible to remove the disturbance because the disturbance is free, like memory, which flows into art and invention and writes itself. Only in this way is writing a writing of memory, writing of experience, rather than a support tool for the mnemomachine and mnemotechnics.
Translated from the Italian by Mats Svensson
Per leggere l’articolo in italiano: http://www.lacittaonline.com/index.php?q=node/2393