cover image Hatred and Forgiveness

Hatred and Forgiveness

Julia Kristeva, trans. from the French by Jeanine Herman, Columbia Univ., $29.50 (336p) ISBN 978-0-231-14324-0

Religion, art, fiction, and the psyche are probed but rarely illumined in these murky philosophical treatises, culled from the author's essays, lectures, case studies, and interviews. Kristeva (Hannah Arendt), a French linguist, novelist, and psychoanalyst, explores eclectic topics, including Christianity's conceptions of feminine beauty, the psychological context of cancer, and the crassness of the publishing industry. The title essay investigates the origins of human personality in "abjection," a psychic gag reflex in which "I give birth to myself through the violence of sobbing and vomiting." Unfortunately, Kristeva's cryptic, ex cathedra style—"As for the hysteric, her erotomania tries to resolve her interminable oedipal and the bisexuality it commands through amorous exaltation: the infinite quest for an object whose absence is filled by the God of monotheists"—rarely throws a coherent line of argument to the floundering reader. Her prose is almost a parody of self-consciously difficult academic writing, one in which the arcane terminologies and mannered rhetorical tics of Freudianism, feminism, and "French theory" clamor for dominance. The result is a thicket of impenetrable jargon. (Jan.)