A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

Why does reading philosophy hurt my head? Regardless, the effort for this book is worth it, as the hurt head also helps to heal hurt heart. What follows is a varied collection of thoughts on love, its absence, the object and subject of love. Barthes relies heavily on The Sorrows of Young Werther (maybe I can re-read in the original German?) for examples. His toolbox also includes Nietzsche, Racine, Winnicott, Sartre…
Note to self: when you dog-ear almost every page in the book, it’s a good indication that you should own a copy of the book.

I who love… am sedentary, motionless, at hand, in expectation, nailed to the spot, in suspense – like a package in some forgotten corner of a railway station. Amorous absence functions in a single direction, expressed by the one who stays, never by the one who leaves… To speak this absence is from the start to propose that the subject’s place and the other’s place cannot permute; it is to say “I am loved less than I love.”

Sometimes I have no difficulty enduring absence. Then I am “normal”… I behave as a well-weaned subject; I can feed myself… on other things besides the maternal breast. This endured absence is nothing more or less than forgetfulness. I am, intermittently, unfaithful. This is the condition of my survival; for if I did not forget, I should die.

A Greek lesson:

Pothos, desire for the absent being, and Himéros, the more burning desire for the present being.

Someone tells me: this kind of love is not viable. But how can you evaluate viability? Why is the viable a Good Thing? Why is it better to last than to burn?

What I hide by my language, my body utters. I can deliberately mold my message, not my voice… I am a liar (by preterition), not an actor. My body is a stubborn child, my language is a very civilized adult.

… the amorous glue is indissoluble; one must either submit or cut loose: accommodation is impossible (love is neither dialectical nor reformist).

Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words.

The resistance of the wood varies depending on the pale where we drive in the nail: wood is not isotropic. nor am I; I have my “exquisite points.” The map of these points is known to me alone, and it is according to them that I make my way, avoiding or seeking this or that, depending on externally enigmatic counsel; I should like this map of moral acupuncture to be distributed preventively to my new acquaintances (who, moreover, could also utilize it to make me suffer more).

On “I love you” as a phrase:

The word (the word-as-sentence) has a meaning only at the moment I utter it; there is no other information in it but its immediate saying: no reservoir, no armory of meaning. Everything is in the speaking of it: it is a “formula,” but this formula corresponds to no ritual; the situations in which I say I-love-you cannot be classified; I-love-you is irrepressible and unforeseeable… It is neither quite what is uttered (no message is congealed, sorted, mummified within it, ready for dissection) nor quite the uttering itself… We might call it a proffering, which has no scientific place: I-love-you belongs neither in the realm of linguistics nor in that of semiology. Its occasion (the point of departure for speaking it) would be, rather, Music. In the manner of what happens in singing, in the proffering of I-love-you, desire is neither repressed (as in what is uttered) nor recognized (where we did not expect it: as in the uttering itself) but simply: released, as an orgasm. Orgasm is not spoken, but it speaks and it says: I-love-you.


auth=Barthes, Roland
pub=1978
sub= translated by Richard Howard
isbn=0374521611