sábado, 4 de octubre de 2008

Regeneration by Pat Barker

In Regeneration, Pat Barker fictionalises an encounter between H. R. Rivers and Siegfrid Sasson in a military psychological hospital. In Craiglockhart, near Edinburgh, there are numerous war wounded, whose experiences in the Flanders trenches of the First World War have left them psychologically, as well as sometimes physically scarred. The symptoms are many and varied. In Sassoon´s case it is possible that the motivation might even be political, rather than psychological.

Rivers attempts to analyse his patients and his own responses to them. He is of the modern school, unlikely to resort to the blunt-edged methods of some of his contemporaries. Descriptions of some of these established treatments read very much like torture. They were, after all, in the cases described, trying to make someone talk. How appropriate.

But Rivers is unimpressed and he pursues his own line. Along the way, he also develops new, ground-breaking treatments of his own invention.

Sassoon befriends a young man called Owen, whom he encourages to write. Another friend called Graves visits whenever he can. Together, Sassoon and Owen work on some of Owen´s writing. The results, they both agree, are improvements.

The power of Regeneration is the relation between its overall idea and its setting. It presents the creative process as a reflection on experience and sets this in an institution where formal reflection on experience is a treatment. Eventually, it is not just the individual patient who benefits from the cathartic process of reflection, but also the analyst and, ultimately, all of us when the relief takes the form of great poetry.

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