cover image Cain’s Act: The Origins of Hate

Cain’s Act: The Origins of Hate

Massimo Recalcati, trans. from the Italian by Will Schutt. Europa, $17 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-60945-815-7

The biblical story of Cain and Abel reveals the dark side of human nature, posits psychoanalyst Recalcati (The Night in Gethsemane) in this esoteric analysis. “The Bible shows how violence makes manifest the perverse and narcissistic character of human desire: our drive to destroy alterity, our aspiration to become divine, our desire to be God,” Recalcati contends, providing a psychoanalytic take on Cain’s murder of his brother and suggesting that sin arises from an inherent human drive to see oneself as self-contained and complete. Recalcati defines “true sin” as the desire of humans to be equal to God, who by definition “does not know the negative, lacerating experience of lack.” For Recalcati, Cain’s jealousy of Abel’s superior offerings to God stands in for a basic impulse in which the recognition of difference (“lack”) produces a desire to eliminate the “Other” so as to make oneself “absolute.” The ideas stimulate, but the discussions of how Freud’s and Lacan’s concepts of the “mirror stage” and ego apply to Cain are bound to go over the heads of readers not steeped in psychoanalytic theory. Still, this provides plenty to ponder. (Dec.)