The void after father

A Father (2019)
FATHER SAVING / Sibylle Lacan, daughter of psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, tells of a sore father relationship in this short but strong memoir.


I A Father says Sibyl Lacan (1940–2013) on the relationship with an absent father, the famous French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901–1981). The father left the family, mother Marie-Louise Blondin, sister Caroline and brother Thibaut and Sibylle, in favor of new partner Sylvia Bataille (author Georges Batailles ex-wife) and her second daughter Judith (1941–2017). In public, Judith was his only daughter, despite the fact that she did not bear his last name, since her parents were not legally divorced from their respective past when she was born.

The void after father

The book opens with the phrase "When I was born, my father was no longer there." During her childhood in Rue Jadi, Sibylle knew that she had a father, but that it was a father who was not always there. For her and her siblings, her mother was everything: care, love, security and authority. But she still could not fill the void left by her father, who gradually grew in Sibylle. Missed by a present father characterized her entire life.

The mother could not fill the void after her father's absence.

She writes that "he was a periodic father, a father in fragments," a man who came and went. In the same way is A Father told in fragments, where Sibylle describes brief situations with a father who is never properly present. Many of the situations are only described with a few sentences and are experienced as imperfect by me as a reader. I get curious about more and read page after page without having my need met, just like Sibylle, who constantly and unsuccessfully tried to get closer to the volatile father.

The relationship appears in the void

The little book at first seems like a compressed version of Sibylle's reality – at least I want to believe it. But the voids and lack of words on both sides describe her pain and are indicative of her father's relationship.

When Sibylle needed money, she used to meet her father – often at expensive restaurants. The first thing he said to her then was always, "What do you want?"
She replied that she wanted to see him first, talk to him, but he never wanted to talk about her private life with her and therefore acted impersonally, with a clear emotional distance.

Only twice throughout her life did she see her father cry: first when he told the family that the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty had passed away, and then when she lost her sister, Caroline.

Atonement after the death of his father

When his father died, Sibylle had not seen him in over two years. During this period she heard nothing from him. She used to always be the one who took the initiative to meet, but when she stopped asking for money, since she managed on her own, contact between them also ceased.

She was reconciled to her father only a few years after his passing away when she visited his grave and “laid his hand on the icy stone of the fire. Reconciliation of bodies, reconciliation of souls. It was magical. Finally, I was with him. Dear Dad, I love you. You're my father. He must have heard me. "


What exactly is a father?

This book raises many questions about the father role: What is a father really? Is there someone who is always there for you? Is there someone you can share everything with and who shares everything with you? Or is your father the one who helped create you and whom you always keep in your heart, no matter what, and vice versa? I can recognize in the latest variant.

Nothing can destroy the biological and family connection you share.

Like Sibylle, I grew up with a father who was emotionally distant and shared little of his inner life with me. Still, I loved him while he was alive, and even more (unfortunately) after his recent passing away, mostly because of the grief over what we never shared. I know he loved me as much as I loved him, even though we never said it to each other.

My experience tells me that even if you are not with your father all the time and may not know him as well on a personal level, nothing can destroy the biological and family connection you share. This connection, or love, as I wish to call it, exists at some level, on both good and bad, in presence and absence.

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