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The Telemachus Complex

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The Telemachus Complex

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Fatherhood today is in crisis. Fathers have gone missing, or have become their children’s playmates, and the symbolic authority of the father has lost its power. What remains of the father today in the wake of this decline, and what should the relation between children and parents now be?

In addressing these questions, Massimo Recalcati draws inspiration from the story of Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey. The Telemachus complex is the reverse of the Oedipus complex. Recalcati argues that children are possessed not just with a desire to annihilate their father, as their key rival in the contest to win the mother’s love, but also with a longing for a father-figure, as someone who brings meaning, structure and order to their lives and who imbues them with a sense of the future.

This fresh and insightful account of the changing relations between parents and children in the era of the decline of the father will be of great interest to a wide general readership.


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