Gerard Kleczewski. Banality of evil, fear and truth… Three concepts under the microscope at In Press Éditions

Founded in 1997 by France Perrot, In Press editions publish nearly 60 books each year on psychoanalysis, psychology, personal development, spirituality and health. For more than a quarter of a century, the team at Boulevard de l’Hôpital in Paris has grown and developed, while maintaining a high level of intellectual rigor, which is not incompatible with the desire to be didactic and accessible to the general public, as well as independence from the major French publishing groups.

  • With regard to Judaism, In Press offers a delightful panorama of works, including recently the 5th updated edition of Liberal Rabbi Philippe Haddad’s book “To Explain Judaism to My Friends” ( ).
  • Recently, I also mentioned in these columns the excellent and very profound epistolary book by Henri Atlan and Ariel Toledano “To believe and not to believe”*
  • In May 2022, under the direction of Michel Gad Wolkowicz, came out the excellent choral book “The identity in question(s), what makes people? The Jewish subject”, which I had the chance to chronicle in Tribune Juive. **
  • Finally, among many others, I would cite the very good “Revue Pardès”, under the direction of Shmuel Trigano, which tackled last February – we can no longer be in phase with the burning news of Israel – the subject : “What is a Jewish State?”***. This, from the pen of many authors including, in addition to Shmuel Trigano himself, Francine Kaufmann, Rony Klein, Pierre Lurçat, Gaëlle Hanna Serero, Yizhak Weisz, Michaël Wygoda, and a few others.

Humanity and banality of evil, being afraid and the truth

Here are three themes, and three concepts, brilliantly explored by so many books at In Press, and many authors at stake.

The first of the themes is addressed in volume 2 of a two-part book, resulting from the work of 19 doctors in psychology, under the leadership of Elisabeth Gontier, for whom François Marty was the thesis director.

The first opus had mainly tackled the central question (“Becoming human”) and was part of the university tradition of “mixing”, in other words a choral work composed of texts dedicated to a master (in this case François Marty) by his friends and followers. The 19 doctors in psychology tried to answer the question “What makes our humanity?” based on psychoanalytical concepts drawn from Marty’s work (inheritance, transmission, appropriation and overcoming of knowledge, etc.) implemented in their clinical practice.
It first highlighted the role of latency and that of the advent of genitality in adolescence in the development of the young subject. Then they pinpointed the stumbling blocks in the “work of culture” characteristic of our time and how psychologists could intervene to try to remedy them.

In volume 2, it is a question of identifying the oh so rich topicality of the expression “the banality of evil” dear to Hannah Arendt. This, in the forms of destructiveness encountered in adolescents and adults. It is about murders and assassinations, the correlation between dangerousness and acting out, the violence of the unspeakable in addictions, the role and mission of the psychologist confronted with evil, particularly in adolescence, the childhood and adolescent fantasy confronted with real violence, the anxiety of guilt, the paradoxes and limits of the interpretation of facts by criminal justice or even the therapeutic framework that can be envisaged in a prison environment…
Strong and enlightening texts which draw up a coherent panorama of this banality of evil, which invades our public and private lives, and attempt to find in psychology and psychoanalysis “the” or rather “the” appropriate answers.

Where does fear come from, how does it get worse,

how does it mobilize or immobilize our psyche?

Tested individually and collectively which crosses us all, is fear a bad adviser? In any case, it holds a major place in the civilization of the 21th century and invites itself into the cure on the side of the patient and sometimes even of the shrink.

“It is brighter when someone speaks,” Freud wrote in 1905 of the young child frightened by the dark. And this fear inhabits the room of the child like that of the adult concerned by the memory of this primal fear which affects sexuality, the originary and the unconscious, which weaves in each of us its threads thick and tangled.
If fear in itself, like that of reality, can favor the construction of the subject, it can also be, as Maupassant writes, “a terrible spasm of thought and of the heart”.

From the 2023 acts of the psychoanalytic organization of the “fourth group”, the texts produced by high-level authors, including Daniel Sibony, Isabelle Alfandary, Jean-François Chiantaretto Francis Drossart or Pierrette Laurent, are enlightening. Especially in a post-Covid context which has, more
than ever, exacerbated individual and collective fears.

Particularly instructive and inspiring, Daniel Sibony’s chapter, titled “Fear of the origin and origin of fear”, and that of Pierrette Laurent, “Fears pegged to the body”. But all the other contributions are in unison, around fears and fears, the denial of reality that opposes collective fears and unspeakable pain. Sometimes unfathomable.

The truth… A constant conquest

Ultimate concept, approached in a small book remarkably written by the psychoanalyst Gérard Bonnet: the truth. Didn’t Freud refer to his practice as “founded on the love of truth”?

If the truth imposes itself as a requirement, how to define it and grasp its dimensions in a world where everyone believes they can appropriate the truth to the detriment of others?

At every stage of life, truth is a quest or a conquest (in one word). Should we tell the children? Do we have to tell everything or are there lies that deserve to be kept? Is the family, at the origin of everything, the place where the true is possible, the truthful possible and the unspoken a defect?

In the first part, Bonnet makes Freud a conquistador, in perpetual quest for truth and meaning. Influenced by the Bible, drawing its legitimacy from university studies and revealing an unknown turning point (the truth in and through psychotropics), Freud’s experience owes a great deal in this area to two masters (Charcot and Breuer). A Freud influenced by three determining cultural currents, including the progressive development of the notion of the unconscious, with in fine a truth perceived as a major ideal for psychoanalysis.

Part 2 is devoted to the truth and its revelation, or not, to the child. From ideals to affect, from lying to inventiveness, the author examines the central questions through Freud’s experience: “Should we say everything” and “How to say it”?

Part 3 brilliantly confronts the demand for truth with family origins on the one hand, and sexual assault on the other.

Finally, part 4, titled “To each his own truth”, confronts drive and ideal, truth, ethics and symbolism in everyday life. She wonders: “Is psychoanalysis true?” through on the one hand psychoanalytic theory, on the other hand its demanding and codified practice, then its interpretations and finally its modes of intervention.

Truth, an object in the depths of the psyche, both an uncontrollable drive and an almost unattainable ideal, like a Sisyphean horizon that recedes as one advances towards death…

© Gerard Kleczewski





Books covered in this article:

Gerard Kleczewski. Banality of evil, fear and truth… Three concepts under the microscope at In Press Éditions – Tribune Juive