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Bion: An Introduction
Nicola Abel-Hirsch
Karnac Books (London: Phoenix Publishing House) / Softcover / Apr 2023
9781912691838 (ISBN-10: 1912691833)
Klein and the Kleinians
price: $36.95 (may be subject to change)
132 pages
Out of stock - more on the way...

Wilfred R. Bion’s life spanned key events in the twentieth century. Born in India in 1897, he came to boarding school in England aged 8 and at 18 fought in the tanks in World War One. He trained as a doctor between the wars and, in his World War Two work for the army, he was an innovator. After the war, he became a patient of Melanie Klein, qualified as a psychoanalyst, and was part of an extraordinary period in psychoanalysis of work with psychotic mechanisms in patients. In the late 1950s, he identified the configuration container/contained as being at the heart of human development. He looked outside of psychoanalysis to philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, and even theo-mystical thinkers. His work evolved radically throughout the 1960s and, at age 70 when many would be thinking of slowing down, he emigrated to California and began to travel internationally, giving lectures and supervisions across three continents. After Freud, Bion appears to be the most quoted psychoanalyst of our time and this book provides the opportunity, even for those familiar with his work, to gain insight into its sheer breadth, showcased so brilliantly in this slim volume.

As author of Bion: 365 Quotes, Nicola Abel-Hirsch’s immersion in Bion’s vast œuvre has enabled a comprehensive introduction to Bion and his work. Her lightness of touch, whilst retaining the necessary depth, makes it a joy to read. Bion and his work can be somewhat enigmatic but Abel-Hirsch’s understanding offers the ideal introduction to the man and his work.

Table of Contents:

Prologue
About the author
Five opening thoughts

1. Bion’s war
The Battle of Cambrai
Tanks
War languages
Amiens
Turning the guns round

2. Oxford, medicine, Samuel Beckett
The 1920s and 1930s
Some detail
Bion and Samuel Beckett

3. What groups do
The 1940s
Starting to ask questions again
World War Two work: including Northfield
The Tavistock groups: including Bion the observer, basic assumptions
An eyewitness account of Bion’s group-work
(From an occasion when Bion took a group in 1964 for about four months)

4. A time of membership
Late 1940s/1950s
Analysis with Klein and Klein’s group of 4
The Imaginary Twin
‘Verbal thinking’ in the 50s papers
Bion and Winnicott

5. A breakthrough
And then Bion made a breakthrough
On Arrogance (1958)
Attacks on Linking (1959)
Braithwaite and Frege
The beginning of Bion’s ‘cogitations’

6. Going back to beginnings
India
Bishop Stortford School

7. Thinking
The Theory of Thinking
Hume and Kant

8. Opening up his own thinking: Learning from Experience (1962)
The “name givers”
Alpha-function
Beta elements
Container/contained
Bion’s own clinical work in this period
Galileo and Poincaré

9. A new instrument: Elements of Psychoanalysis (1963)
The Grid
Reversible Perspective
An eyewitness account of Bion’s clinical work in the 1960s

10. Going as far as possible: Transformations: Change from Learning to Growth (1965)
Transformations and Invariants
Bion’s own clinical work in this period
The emergence of ’O’: the last chapter of Transformations
Plato and Milton

11. Talking about his findings
Memory and Desire 1965
Catastrophic Change 1966
The Commentary to Second Thoughts: Selected Papers on Psycho-Analysis 1967

12. Los Angeles 1967
Spectrum
Dispute with Greenson

13. Elaborations: Attention and Interpretation: A Scientific Approach to Insight in Psycho-Analysis and Groups (1970)
Container/contained
Suffering
Intuition and ‘F’[Faith]
Bion’s own clinical work in this period
An eyewitness account of Bion’s clinical work in the 1970s

14. International lectures, seminars and supervisions
The Brazilian Lectures
The Brazilian Clinical Seminars
The Tavistock Seminars
The Italian Seminars

15. Autobiography and A Memoir of the Future
Bion’s autobiography
A Memoir of the Future

Five closing thoughts
Brief glossary
Bibliography

About the Author:

Nicola Abel-Hirsch is a training analyst of the British Psychoanalytical Society, and works in full-time psychoanalytical practice. She has given theoretical and clinical papers on Bion in the UK; Taiwan (annually 2005–2012); the USA; and Europe. From 2013 to 2015 she was the visiting professor at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex. She is the author of Bion: 365 Quotes (2019), and editor of Hanna Segal’s last book Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (2007). Under the auspices of Understanding Primitive Mental States NYC, she chairs an ongoing series of seminars on Bion’s later lectures, seminars and supervisions.

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