Anna Blundy is the winner of the 2021 Gavin MacFadyen Prize. Her fascinating essay reviews Bion’s theory of container–contained with an unusual application to the role of interpreters and their relation to the maternal container. She touches upon the potentially catastrophic (if often humorous) results of poor interpretation and considers the similarities to the results of poor containment in the mother–infant dyad.
She looks in detail at the Reagan–Gorbachev summits in the 1980s, in Reykjavik, Washington, and Moscow. In particular, how the Soviet container-interpreters helped the US and Soviet leaders manage their way towards knowledge and, eventually, towards the end of the Cold War. She brings in Bion’s ‘K’ and shows how ideas from Bion and other key psychoanalysts, including Winnicott and Klein, shed light on the complex task of the simultaneous interpreter.
The hypothesis is that the ‘good enough’ interpreter provides a reverie for the principal and thereby facilitates a positive re-introjection of material into both principal and interlocutor. With this, an ability to tolerate frustration is enabled to assist with the building of realistic relationships and, in ideal circumstances, to ensure relative peace.
A most enjoyable and engaging paper with an innovative application of Bion’s theories, this is a must-read for all with an interest in psychoanalysis, politics, and the intricacies of translation.