Jacques Lacan’s intervention : Gestapo or Geste à peau – an evolving discussion

by Julia Evans on November 30, 2017

This discussion occurred during the meeting of the Earl’s Court Clinical Group, members are (Bruno de Florence, Greg Hynds, Julia Evans, Owen Hewitson), on 30th November 2017. Also included are some of the exchanges which followed.

Bruno de Florence presented one of Lacan’s interventions in the analysis of Suzanne Hommel. [See Endnote i]  He started his presentation by asking Owen & Greg to read out his written transcriptions of GESTAPO & GESTE À PEAU. (With a French accent, they sound the same). Another key element of Hommel’s testimony is at the end of the first sentence [See Endnote ii]: “je me réveille tous les matins à 5 heures“. 5am was the favourite time at which the French Gestapo would come & knock at your door. You’d be asleep, and therefore confused & defenceless.

Bruno states that the 5am ‘knock, knock’ is a familiar trope in French culture.

So the discussion centred around the use of touch as an intervention. Suzanne Hommel is insistent in her description and repeats the gesture during her testimony.


After this discussion, Owen Hewitson commented on a passage from Seminar VIII : 31st May 1961 (See Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here for information.) p283 onwards of Cormac Gallagher’s translation.


I, Julia Evans, sent round “Belated notes following the Clinical meeting on 30th November 2017  on 4th January 2018’


Geste á peau or Gestapo?

Two comments from my notes to our discussion…..

1) Firstly, it is always the subject and not the analyst who makes the interpretation. So it is not the analyst who is making sense of what is being said. Of course, Jacques Lacan was transforming Suzanne Hommel’s first sentence from association with the Gestapo to a very soft touch on the cheek. This intervention is non-verbal. It is Suzanne Hommel who confirms the intervention as an interpretation.

2) Lacan turns interpretation on its head. There is no correct interpretation, just ones which sometimes work.



I found Laurent’s text on ‘Interpretation and Truth’ to be enormously helpful on these points. Notes on availability of the references are Interpretation and Truth : 1st July 1994 : Éric Laurent or here

The reference to Seminar VIII which Owen gave, is preceded by a very interesting description of ‘Interpretation’

Seminar VIII : 31st May 1961 (p333 of Bruce Fink’s translation) : See Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here  

From p283 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation: See Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here  

Where has all this come from? From the “turning point” of 1920. Around what does the turning point of 1920 turn? Around the fact that – the people of the time said it, the heroes of the first analytic generation – interpretation no longer functioned as it had functioned, the atmosphere no longer allows it to function, to succeed. And why? This did not surprise Freud, he had said it a long time before. One could highlight the one of his texts where he says, very early on, in the Technical Papers : “Let us take advantage of the openness of the unconscious because it will soon have found some other trick”.

References to the above quote from Lacan

Note : It has not been possible to find the exact reference for this quote. This seems to be the nearest, though does not comply with being early in one of his papers on technique. Researches continue…


There now follows two quotes – I think the first one is much more likely.

On beginning the treatment (Further recommendations on the technique of psychoanalysis I) : 1913 : Sigmund Freud : Published by www.Freud2Lacan.com : available  here

p123 of SEXII : Anyone who hopes to learn the noble game of chess from books will soon discover that only the openings and end-games admit of an exhaustive systematic presentation and that the infinite variety of moves which develop after the opening defy any such description. This gap in instruction can only be filled by a diligent study of games fought out by masters. The rules which can be laid down for the practice of psycho-analytic treatment are subject to similar limitations.

In what follows I shall endeavour to collect together for the use of practising analysts some of the rules for the beginning of the treatment.

– From : My contact with Josef Popper-Lynkeus (1932) Sigmund Freud, SEXXII [p3682]

P4303  A good opportunity for this seems to be offered at night by the state of sleep, since sleep involves a cessation of our motor functions. The situation seems safe, and the severity of our internal police-force may therefore be relaxed. It is not entirely withdrawn, since one cannot be certain: it may be that the unconscious never sleeps at all. And now the reduction of pressure upon the repressed unconscious produces its effect. Wishes arise from it which during sleep might find the entrance to consciousness open. If we were to know them we should be appalled, alike by their subject-matter, their unrestraint and indeed the mere possibility of their existence. This, however, occurs only seldom, and when it does we awake as speedily as possible, in a state of fear. But as a rule our consciousness does not experience the dream as it really was. It is true that the inhibitory forces (the dream censorship, as we may call them) are not completely awake, but neither are they wholly asleep. They have had an influence on the dream while it was struggling to find an expression in words and pictures, they have got rid of what was most objectionable, they have altered other parts of it till they are unrecognizable, they have severed real connections while introducing false ones, until the honest but brutal wishful phantasy which lay behind the dream has turned into the manifest dream as we remember it – more or less confused and almost always strange and incomprehensible. Thus the dream (or the distortion which characterizes it) is the expression of a compromise, the evidence of a conflict between the mutually incompatible impulses and strivings of our mental life. And do not let us forget that the same process, the same interplay of forces, which explains the dreams of a normal sleeper, gives us the key to understanding all the phenomena of neurosis and psychosis.


From Seminar VIII : 31st May 1961 : p283 Of Gallagher’s translation : See here  : the passage examined by Owen Hewitson :

What can that mean for us who want nevertheless to discover from this experience – which has involved a sliding on our part also – see reference points? I can that the effect of a discourse – I am talking about that of the first analytic generation – which, while dealing with the effect of a discourse, the unconscious, does not know that this is what is in question, because, even though it was there – since the Traumdeutung [notes & information or here]  – as I teach you to recognise, to spell out, to see that what is constantly in question under the term mechanisms of the unconscious is nothing but the effect of discourse…. it is indeed this, the effect of a discourse which, dealing with the effect of a discourse which, the unconscious, does not know it, necessarily culminates at a new crystallisation of the these effects of the unconscious which makes this discourse opaque. A new crystallisation, what does that mean? That means the effects that we note, namely that if no longer has the same effect on patients when they are given certain glimpses, certain keys, when certain signifiers are manipulated before them.

But, pay careful attention to this, the subjective structures which correspond to this new crystallisation, do not need, for their part, to be new. Namely these registers, these degrees of alienation, as I might say, that we can specify, qualify in the subject under the terms for example of ideal ego, ego-ideal, it is like stationary waves – whatever is happening – these effects which repulse, immunise, mithridatize the subject with respect to a certain discourse, which prevents it from being the one which can continue to function when it is a question of leading him where we ought to lead him, namely to his desire. It changes nothing about the nodal points where he, as subject, is going to recognise himself, establish himself. And this is what Freud notes at this turning point. If Freud tries to define what these stationary points, these fixed waves are in the subjective constitution, it is because this is what appears very remarkably to him, to be a constant, but it is not in order to consecrate them that he occupies himself with them and articulates them, it is to remove them as obstacles. It is not in order to establish, as a type of irreducible inertia, the supposedly synthesising ‘Ich’ function of the ego, even when he speaks about it, puts it in the foreground, and it is nevertheless in this way that this was subsequently interpreted. It is to the extent that precisely we have to reconsider that as the artefacts of the self-establishment of the subject in his relationship to the signifier on the one hand, to [p284] reality on the other. It is in order to open up a new chapter of analytic action.


Which may be what Lacan did with his geste à peau, though there was no certainty it would operate as a turning point when he did it.

End notes

[i] See https://youtu.be/VA-SXCGwLvY from Owen Hewitson’s site Lacanonline : This is a wonderful story from Lacan’s clinic as told by Suzanne Hommel, in analysis with Lacan in 1974. The excerpt is from Gérard Miller’s film ‘Rendez-vous chez Lacan’. The film is in French but I (Owen Hewitson) have appended subtitles for the benefit of English speakers.

[ii] Suzanne Hommel first sentence: ‘One day, in a session, I was telling Jacques Lacan of a dream, I had and I told him ‘I wake up every morning at 5am.’ and then I added ‘It is at 5am that the Gestapo came to find the Jews in their homes’


Note : If links to any required text do not work, check www.LacanianWorksExchange.net. If a particular text or book remains absent, contact Julia Evans.


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, London


Further texts by members of the Earl’s Court Clinical Group

By Julia Evans here or here

By Bruno de Florence here

By Greg Hynds  here

By Owen Hewitson here

Further texts

Of the clinic here 

Lacanian Transmission here

Some Lacanian History here

Topology here

Groups & cartels here

From LW working groups here

Use of power here

By Éric Laurent here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud  here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Text presented to Clinical Group meetings

Reading the Recommendations: London, 1st April  2017 (Open Meeting) : by Greg Hynds: Information here

What makes the initial interventions by an analyst work?: 1st April 2017 (Open Meeting) : by Julia Evans : Information here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s case of Obsessional Neurosis (Seminar IV) : a reconstruction of the case by Julia Evans on 15th June 2017 or here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s description of Object Relations Theory (Seminar IV)or here by Julia Evans on 27th July 2017

The Yerodia Case : 27th July 2017 : Owen Hewitson:  is available here

Comments on the Yerodia Case : A preliminary engagement with ‘Psychoanalytic Violence: An Essay in Indifference in Ethical Matters’ by Dany Nobus by Julia Evans on 30th July 2017 or hereh

The analyst’s position : Thursday 26th October 2017 by Julia Evans on 26th October 2017 or here

Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Social Bond : acting as a 1-subject, outside of ideals : 5th November 2017 (London) by Bruno de Florence on 5th November 2017 or here

The analyst’s position : 5th November 2017 (London) : Julia Evans by Julia Evans on 5th November 2017 or here

‘The irreducibility of a form of transmission’ : a case study by Julia Evans on 15th March 2018 or here