School Meeting

Presentation theme

Language(s) and passe
Elisabete Thamer


This has been an option of our School since its creation: the cartels of the passe are international, therefore multilingual. Since the beginning of our common experience of the passe, we have never derogated from this option. Innovative compared to Lacan’s invention of 1967, this choice raises questions about the passe and its relationship to language, to languages, to lalangue. What is the transmission in the passe? What are the limits? What should a cartel identify? Are the translations a loss or an asset for the passe? What are the consequences of this diversity of languages in the passe system for the School work?

The passe is an experience of transmission, an attempt by the one who ventures it to pass on to the School what led him to take over the analyst’s baton. Now, the passe, like the cure, has not a medium other than speech and, just as in an analysis, it is essential that the passant testifies to the passeurs in a language they share. But does sharing a language guarantee in itself a “faithful” transmission? Nothing is less certain: « Une langue entre autres n’est rien de plus que l’intégrale des équivoques que son histoire y a laissé persister1.» [A language, among other languages, is nothing more than the integral of the misunderstandings that its history has allowed to persist.]

Different elaborations by Lacan, all crucial for the passe, point towards the limits of language and articulated speech: « aporie du compte rendu », [aporia of the report] he said2. Aporia as to the desire (incompatible with the speech3 including the one of the analyst), aporia as to the object, as to the act (in which the subject is subverted), as to the real, as to the opaque jouissance of the symptom, as to the saying that ex-sists to the said… Then, how can we grasp in each testimony of a passe, in what is said there, what escapes the nets of language? Is it in the end a question of language?

No language by itself could ensure flawless transmission. Lacan’s elaborations on lalangue make it obvious. Always singular, lalangue – which the unconscious is made of4 – cannot be reduced to a given language: « lalangue n’a rien à faire avec le dictionnaire, quel qu’il soit5. » [lalangue has nothing to do with the dictionary, whatever it may be]. One can share a language to a greater or lesser extent, but not lalangue.

In our School, the passe involves its lot of translation. First of all that of the passant himself, who has to find the words to say what he knows. Then there is the “translation” that the passeur does of what he has heard in order to pass it on to the cartel. And, finally, the translation of the testimony collected in the languages spoken by the members of the cartel. Would this marquetry of languages around a testimony help or hinder the understanding of the logic of the said and its consequences?

The multilingualism in the passe system favours, from a practical point of view, greater flexibility in the composition of the cartels and contributes to forge working links at the international level. Language(s) and the passe is a theme which condenses both the most structural and singular experience of the passe and the political dimension of our School. We hope that this meeting will be an opportunity to reflect and share the different aspects of our initial option.


1 J. Lacan, « L’étourdit », Scilicet 4, Paris, Seuil, 1973, p. 47.
Cf. J. Lacan, « Discours à l’École freudienne de Paris », Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 263.
Cf. J. Lacan, « La direction de la cure et les principes de son pouvoir », Écrits, Paris, Seuil, 1966, p. 641.
Cf. J. Lacan, Le Séminairelivre XXEncore, Paris, Seuil, 1975, p. 126.
5 J. Lacan, Je parle aux murs [Le savoir du psychanalyste], Paris, Seuil, « Paradoxes de Lacan », 2011, p.18 (leçon du 4 novembre 1971).