The departure of the Egyptian psychologist Mostafa Safwan


The Egyptian psychologist Mostafa Safwan (1921-2020) finally passed away in Paris at the age of 99, after a long experience that combined Lacanian psychoanalysis, writing, and translation. Safwan was born in Alexandria in 1921, and he also studied philosophy at the University of Alexandria, before moving to Paris in the forties with his teacher, Mostafa Ziyour, who was the first to encourage him to delve into psychoanalysis. But his travel to France came as a result of his inability to obtain a study seat at the University of Cambridge after the Second World War, thus he left to Paris to pursue the study of philosophy in 1946. The French capital was at that time bustling with language studies after the discoveries of de Saussure, and American and French anthropologists, especially Claude Levi-Strauss, as he had indicated in an interview. Since that period, Safwan went on to pursue psychoanalysis, especially when he learned analysis with Marc Scholberg, and when he was introduced to the ideas of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Thus, language was his main path to psychology, where “we are children of language before we were children of our fathers and mothers,” as he put it. By then he was reading Lacan’s articles and attending his lectures. He also began working under his supervision since the end of the forties, where he was associated with him as a student and then as a colleague at his school. Safwan was considered one of the founding members of the “Constituent Society for Psychoanalysis” in the early 1980s, and then the “European Psychoanalytic Foundation”, in addition to his honorary membership in psychoanalytic societies. In addition to psychoanalysis, he had literary, cultural and intellectual concerns and interests in addition to translation, on top of which was his translation of Freud’s book: “Interpretation of Dreams” with a translation that is still considered the most important Arabic. He also translated Shakespeare’s “Othello” into colloquial Egyptian, an experiment stemming from his belief in the importance of vernacular languages. He believes that the people’s contempt for the tongue is one of the tools of power to break it, this same authority that seeks to separate the writer from the people. It was considered that the absence of vernacular language education would remain the authoritarian gap between culture and the people, which would affect literary and cultural creation processes. Regarding his view of the future of psychology in the Arab world, he had expressed his lack of belief in the existence of a future for him without a comprehensive intellectual renaissance. Safwan also left intellectual and reference books on psychology such as: “Speech and Death,” “Problems of Contemporary Arab Society – Reading from a Psychoanalytic Perspective,” and “Why Are Arabs Not Free?” Translated by the Egyptian psychoanalyst Mustafa Hegazy, who also translated for him his reference book “Psychoanalysis as a science, treatment and issue”.


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