Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Y Vos, Sabes Quien Sos? [and You, Do You Know Who You Are?]1

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Y Vos, Sabes Quien Sos? [and You, Do You Know Who You Are?]1

Article excerpt

If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Conscience can be seduced and obscured again - even our consciences. For this reason, it is everyone's duty to reflect on what happened.

(Primo Levi, 1976[1987, p. 396])

This paper takes as its starting point the Argentinean film Cautiva, directed by G. Biraben, which describes the traumatic announcement by a judge to a teenage girl that she is the child, not of the couple who were bringing her up, but of parents who 'disappeared' during the military dictatorship. The author explores the notion of identity in general, and focuses more particu- larly on that of the children of the 'disappeared'.

Replacing 'the disappeared' in the context of Argentina and emphasizing the connivance of society as a whole at that time, the author goes on to explore appropriation and its impact on the child concerned - in this case, Cristina, the heroine of the film. Starting with the break-up of her identity, the author describes the stages of its reconstruction and the conditions required for this to be carried out; in particular, it was important for Cristi- na to be in contact with peers and not to avoid the pain that this long pro- cess involved or the uncertainty that continued to hang over her future.

***

Disappeared, hidden, out of sight - those were the terms used to designate what could not be mentally represented of the events in Argentina under the military dictatorship. They refer to a void, the void of identity: 'sucked' (the word used by the military to designate the 'disappeared'), NN [no nato], 'hooded', 'silenced'; all identity is lost. The aim was to empty the body, the name, the meaning of words and make everything transparent. The 'disap- peared' person is a body with no identity - and perhaps even an identity with no body; a phenomenon that has no rationality whatsoever to it. The disappeared are deleted from the world of the living. They belong to the category of 'mathematical unknowns', with nothing human about them. This is what President Videla, in the Clarin newspaper, said: "As such, the disappeared constitute an unknown; they are neither alive nor dead, simply disappeared." With these disappearances, the military junta dared to kill even death, thereby creating an area of confusion between life and death.

Society as a whole was the object of this terror, which could not have existed had society as a whole not chosen to see nothing of what was going on: the void left by the 30,000 'disappeared'; by 10,000 tortured prisoners whose only memory is their body; by 500 missing children and more than 100,000 exiles who had to leave their country for ever. By choosing secrecy (the 'no te metas') rather than accepting the painful responsibility of having been terrified and of having chosen complicity with the army, society had also 'disappeared' during those years.

The director of Cautiva, Gaston Biraben, dedicated his film to "the thou- sands of disappeared persons, whose absence is still with us and guides us, and whose histories inspired the one narrated in this film". The film is a moving reconstruction of one of the perverse legacies of the military dicta- torship: the struggle of a child who survived to rediscover her true identity and tried to deal with her experience of loss.

The screenplay tells the story of Cristina Quadri, who was 15 when she learned that she was the child of two disappeared persons, her real parents. She is met by a state attorney and a psychologist at her high school, with an official summons in her name. Cristina reluctantly follows them to the law courts, where a man introduces himself as a federal judge, asking to see her identity card. Cristina feels all the more uneasy when she learns that the Quadris, whom she knew as her parents, had not been informed of the fact that she was no longer in school. The judge tells her that the time has come for her to know the truth about her identity and her real age - both differ- ent from what was indicated on her identity card: her real name is Sofia Lombardi, and she is 16 years of age. …

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