Like Wind, Like Wave, essays by Stefano Bolognini, translated by Malcolm Garfield (Other Press)

Bolognini’s book of genial essays on psychoanalytic study is subtitled “Fables from the Land of the Repressed.” Unlike the dynamic, multi-layered, and often literary essays of the psychologist Adam Phillips, Bolognini’s work is based on simple or extended anecdote and reflection. He writes for a more general audience and his perspective and tone, broad and intimate, put the reader at ease. “I believe that the way each of us copes with the process of disillusionment that life requires is utterly peculiar to that individual. No one is saved from the labors of accepting reality.”

bolog.jpgMany of the pieces go directly to the theme of accepting disappointment and the loss of an idealized notion. In “I Will Save You,” Bolognini recalls a childhood episode. While visiting his grandmother in the Apennines, he and his cousins watch as a local dog chases his cat “up the tallest oak in the vicinity.” A crowd gathers, firemen arrive with equipment, but the cat cannot be rescued. The next morning, the crying cat is still in the tree. Then enters Bortolotti, a migrant worker home for his summer break, who climbs up the tree barefoot and returns with the cat to the applause of the neighbors. “I had chosen him as the model of my life,” says Bolognini. Years later, he told the story to his own young children in great detail. But not the whole story – which Bolognini has saved for us, who will not be spared. In these withheld portions of the tale, Bolognini reflects briefly on his psychoanalytic practice, and then colors in the rest of the Bortolotti story. The narrative is beguiling.

The heart of Like Wind, Like Wave is memory. In “The Collector,” Bolognini and his childhood buddies find an old 78-rpm record sticking out of river mud. It is 1962. The recording turns out to be a rare Art Tatum side, discarded by Americans during the war. A young man, watching Bolognini and friends from the other side of the river, calls out to them. It seems he is a collector of these abandoned records. “Almost everybody has a collection of some kind in a drawer at home,” writes Bolognini. But what is collecting all about? He gives us some general thoughts on the matter and then speculates about the collector of records and the unique experience in the man’s house. “These are just fantasies, conjectures, or deductions and I would never dream of offering one of my patients hypotheses of this nature on the basis of such scant material gathered in such an ill-defined context.” But he will tell us. The effect of this essay, like most of the others, is a sustained, mild wonderment.

[116 pp., $13.95 paper]