\How Can We Speak the Truth?
For God's sake!—quick!—quick!—put me to sleep— or, quick!—waken me!—quick!—I say to you that I
am deadl —Edgar Allan Poe •
The imaginary, we have just been saying, is a "denial" of death, a meconnaissance of desire, a "defense" against the anxiety of the absolute Master. Must we conclude, then, that desire is repressed in the specular relation (in the "imaginary transference")? Indeed, according to good Freudian doctrine, it could be argued that desire—or, rather, the wish (Wunsch)2—is fulfilled "in the imaginary," in phantasy (Phantasie), only on condition that repression and censorship forbid its fulfillment in reality. "A dream? Freud declares, "is a (disguised) fulfillment of a (suppressed or repressed) wish?3 and the same goes for all phantasmatic productions, not to mention the symptoms and transferences that prolong them. To reconcile Freud and Lacan, then, could we say that the analyst's action consists in disengaging desire from the various imaginary formations in which it is deceptively "fulfilled" because of repression?
What is the goal of an analysis (and, more generally, of an analytic interpretation)? To become conscious of the repressed wish, says Freud; to recognize the desire of the subject, says Lacan ("That the subject should come to recognize and to name his desire, that is the efficacious action of analysis"; 1988b, 228-229/267). Isn't this the same thing? Once the Freudian Wunsch has been reinterpreted in terms of Kojevian "Desire," doesn't Lacan, in sum, propose to conceive of analysis as an unveiling of desire from its imaginary coverings—in short, as a progression through the realm of truth, as a "passage from ignorance to knowledge"?
Yes; but how can we continue to speak of the repression, disguising, veiling of desire, if this repression represses nothing, veils nothing} And how can we unveil "nothing"? How can we speak (name, recognize) the truth of desire?
"Herr, What Is there to Be Said?"
Let us take a famous example of repression: the forgetting of the name Signorelli, an incident that Freud analyzed in the opening chapter of Psychopathology of Everyday Life. Freud is on a train that is taking him from Ragusa to Herzegovina, and he is talking with a fellow traveler. At one point in the conversation, he has just mentioned the impressive frescoes in Orvieto cathedral, representing the Apocalypse (Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven) and painted by ... by whom? Botticelli? Boltraffio? No, that's not it. Freud can see the images of the Apocalypse quite clearly before him—and even the image of the painter himself.4 Nevertheless, no matter how hard he tries, he can no longer remember the painter's name: Signorelli. Why not?
It was, Freud tells us, as if this name had been swallowed up by the repression of other thoughts that the immediately preceding conversation had evoked. This conversation concerned the customs of the Turks living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially their fatalistic attitude toward death: "Herr [Sir], what is there to be said?" was their customary reply to the doctor who gave them the bad news. At that moment, Freud had also thought of their diametrically opposed attitude toward the loss of sexual potency: "Herr, you must know that if that comes to an end, then life is of no value." But Freud had said nothing about this to his companion, out of a sense of propriety. Sex? Death? At any rate, Freud preferred not to think about it any more, shaken as he was at the time by the news, which he had learned at Trafoi, about the suicide of one of his patients, who suffered from "an incurable sexual disorder." He, too, Herr Doktor Freud, had failed in the face of death. Well, what was there for him to say?
Right away, he said what there was to say, without saying it, by forgetting (repressing) the name Signorelli into the Hell of the expressible, where it was henceforth to burn along with Herr (Sig-nor)y in Herzegovina. All that remains now are halves of words (rather like the chosen ones in the fresco of Judgment, whose half-bodies emerge from the earth where they had been lying): Bottice///, Boltraffio . .. which gives us the following "fresco":5
Signorelli—Hersegovina and Bosina---Boltraffio
Signorelli—Herr, what is there to be said，etc。
Signorelli---Herr---Death and sexuality --- (repressed thoughts)