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Janine Altounian is an essayist and translator who worked for many years as a German teacher in French secondary schools. Since 1970, she has been part of a team charged with translating the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud for a major Parisian publisher, Presses Universitaires de France. She is responsible for ensuring the stylistic and conceptual consistency of this new French version of Freud's writings. (See her "L’écriture de Freud. Traversée traumatique et traduction", Paris, PUF, 2003, in the series "Bibliothèque de psychanalyse").
Born in Paris to parents who were both survivors of the 1915 Genocide, Altounian has also worked extensively on the problem of the "translation" of collective trauma in the psyches of people descended of genocide survivors. She has published, in addition to many essays, three books on the subject:
Ouvrez-moi seulement les chemins d'Arménie. Un génocide aux déserts de l'inconscient, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1990; 2nd ed. 2003 (in the series "Confluents psychanalytiques");
La Survivance. Traduire le trauma collectif, Paris, Dunod, 2000, rept. 2003 (in the series "Inconscient et culture");
L'intraduisible. Deuil, mémoire, transmission, Paris, Dunod, 2005 (in the series "Psychismes").
Altounian's "Putting into Words, Putting to Rest and Putting Aside the Ancestors" has appeared in English translation in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80/3, June 1999. Extracts from L'Intraduisible have been translated into English for the Armenian Review by G.M. Goshgarian, but have yet to appear in print.
Although Altounian's work focuses on psychoanalysis, literature, and philosophy, its ultimate aim is simply to bear witness to the itinerary of someone who is both an heir to a destroyed culture and also has a practical experience of psychoanalysis. Altounian's is the itinerary of a translator in a double sense - a translator between different languages and between different mental universes.