Saturday, March 6, 2010

Books: Eros & Pathos: Shades of Love and Suffering, by Aldo Carotenuto

Carotenuto, an Italian psychoanalyst, attempts to answer such timeless human questions as Why are we lonely?; Why are we jealous?; and Why do we fall in love? in this slim volume. These questions (and their answers) are of such an intangible nature that his selections of poetry, which punctuate each chapter's beginning and end, often tell us more than his own words (indeed, Carotenuto may be a better editor of poetry than psychoanalyst). That said, even attempting to address these questions is a rather brave venture, and there are moments at which he does indeed provide insight.

Unfortunately, these are more than matched by the moments in which he seems to be drowning in suffering himself. Carotenuto (whose name, incidentally, means "tenderly held") has a surprisingly grim outlook, likely stemming from his overexposure to the faulty field of psychoanalysis, which overemphasizes the role of the intellect in the well-being of the heart. Having been in love, and being in love, I can guarantee that I've never desired the death of the love object, as he suggests the lover must, nor have I experienced any veritable sacrifice of self, which sacrifice he uses, in part, to define that nebulous state of love. Such notions must derive from Freudian absurdity, in which violence and love bear each other's seeds. But the co-dependence of these concepts diagnoses poor emotional health in the writer, rather than providing any insight to his readers.

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