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Boris Cyrulnik

The Mutterings of Ghosts

This book is the third volume in Boris Cyrulnik’s three-part investigation on resilience — the human capacity of overcoming fearful traumas under certain conditions. In Un merveilleux malheur, he described the principles of resilience. In Les vilains petits canards, he provided a number of case studies of very young children. The present volume, La guerre des fantômes, offers additional case studies of resilience, but here the children are older — adolescents and pre-adolescents. In Canards, the author based the main axis of discussion on the difference between the pre-verbal and verbal states. In Fantômes a similar role is played by the distinction between pre-sexuality and sexuality. And while in the earlier book resilience was provided by the family, it is now provided by social institutions such as school.
Central to this third volume is the notion that resilient people are survivors, or walking dead, i.e. ghosts struggling against the ghosts of a society that creates unreal images and then forces individuals to conform to them, constantly making them feel that they are in conflict with an illusory norm. The author goes on to describe the conditions under which school can play a powerful part in building resilience. Sexual awakening can also play such a role, since this is the moment in human development when the personality as a whole undergoes reconstruction.
This book is as engrossing as the preceding volumes, and the deeply moving examples and precise observations will strike a chord in all readers.

Boris Cyrulnik, a neurologist, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, is one of the founders of human ethology. He is the author of numerous works, including Un merveilleux malheur and Les vilains petits canards