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This Better and Truer History

J.M. Coetzee, Arabella Kurtz | Viking | February 2, 2016 | 4,835 words

On memory, therapy, and cats in the dryer: A discussion with J.M. Coetzee.

Posted inBooks, Nonfiction, Story

This Better and Truer History

On memory, therapy, and cats in the dryer: A discussion with J.M. Coetzee
Photo: Honoré Daumier // Head of an Old Woman // Wikicommons

J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz | The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy | Viking | Sep. 2015 | 19 minutes (4,835 words)

The Good Story is a new book-length discussion between J.M. Coetzee—a nobel laureate renowned for the complicated treatments of morality, accountability and truth in his work—and Arabella Kurtz, a clinical psychologist with a background in literary studies. The following excerpt is the book’s sixth chapter, and appears courtesy of Viking Books.


In this chapter:

Stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and their truth status. Postmodern ‘as if’ notions of the truth. What ‘as if ’ therapeutic solutions might look like. Treating reality, in literature, as simply one fiction among many. Delusions and the truth status of delusions: the case of Don Quixote. Quixote’s challenge: Is an invented ideal truth sometimes not better than the real truth? The truth status of memories. Historians and how they deal with past (remembered) events. Settler societies and unsettling memories of an often genocidal past.

The patient’s story as a subjective truth. Enacting that truth in the consulting room: a case history. Incomplete truths, and the therapist’s role in filling out the missing parts. Progression from subjective truth to fuller subjective truth. ‘Authenticity’ as an alter- native term to subjective truth. The importance of holding on to the notion of truth. Truth as process in psychoanalysis (Hanna Segal). The moment of recognition (recognising the truth) in therapy.

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