The Telemachus complex Fathers’ New Identity: Reconstructing a Paternal Image Publication date : April 15, 2015
Massimo Recalcati is an Italian psychoanalyst. An expert in issues relating to fatherhood, he is regarded as one of the most brilliant essayists of his generation, and his books are often bestsellers in Italy.
This is the French translation of Recalcati’s Il Complesso di Telemaco (The Telemachus Complex), which was number one on the bestseller list for nonfiction, for several weeks.
Oedipus and Narcissus are central in Freudian theory. The son, as Oedipus, is in conflict with the father: he is opposed to the Law and the authority the father represents. But, as Narcissus, he remains sterilely attached to his image, in a world where the difference between generations is disintegrating. Neither of these two mythological figures — Oedipus and Narcissus — is satisfying, as is shown by today’s disaffected youth, who feel abandoned in a world without a future and devoid of reliable adults, but also by their anxious parents, who are so concerned with staying young themselves that they forget to provide their children with leadership.
Can we transcend generational conflicts as well as desperate individualism? Yes, according to Massimo Recalcati, who argues that Ulysses’ son, Telemachus, who plays a key role in The Odyssey, can help us understand the real needs of today’s disoriented youth.
As he awaits his father’s return to Ithaca, Telemachus prays for order in a home that has been overrun by his mother’s suitors: he craves the rule of law and his father’s orders. It would seem that there is no intergenerational conflict here (Oedipus), no hedonistic and sterile self-affirmation (Narcissus); instead what we have is the earliest call for a father figure, an invocation, a need for the father to affirm that a dynamic, vital existence can be lived on this Earth. We’ve all been Telemachus. We’ve all looked out to sea, at least once, as we waited for something to appear on the horizon. For the sea always brings something back.
• A luminous jargon-free explanation which introduces a new father figure.
• At last, a book that will enable readers to understand today’s children.
• The Italian edition of this book sold more than 60,000 copies.