In honor of the Hallmark holiday, I’ve decided to recommend one of my favorite reads about love: A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, by Roland Barthes, translated from French into English by Richard Howard. As the title suggests, the topic is the language used by one in love.
Description on Amazon:
“Barthes’s most popular and unusual performance as a writer is A Lover’s Discourse, a writing out of the discourse of love. This language—primarily the complaints and reflections of the lover when alone, not exchanges of a lover with his or her partner—is unfashionable. Thought it is spoken by millions of people, diffused in our popular romances and television programs as well as in serious literature, there is no institution that explores, maintains, modifies, judges, repeats, and otherwise assumes responsibility for this discourse . . . Writing out the figures of a neglected discourse, Barthes surprises us in A Lover’s Discourse by making love, in its most absurd and sentimental forms, an object of interest.”—Jonathan Culler
I definitely would not say it is an easy read, but it is a fascinating one, one that will having you thinking time and again “Yes! That’s how it is — just like that,” feeling both the thrill of being understood and the disappointment of finding oneself unoriginal precisely in the way we feel most unique and special — how we are in love.
Barthes just nails it so well — here are a few examples from the fragments:
“As a jealous man, I suffer four times over: because I am jealous, because I blame myself for being so, because I fear that my jealousy will wound the other, because I allow myself to be subject to a banality: I suffer from being excluded, from being aggressive, from being crazy, and from being common.”
“‘Am I in love? –Yes, since I’m waiting.’ The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely: I am the one who waits.“
“Despite the difficulties of my story, despite discomforts, doubts, despairs, despite impulses to be done with it, I unceasingly affirm love, within myself, as a value. Though I listen to all the arguments which the most divergent systems employ to demystify, to limit, to erase, in short to depreciate love, I persist: “I know, I know, but all the same…” I refer the devaluations of a lover to a kind of obscurantist ethic, to a let’s-pretend realism, against which I erect the realism of value: I counter whatever “doesn’t work” in love with the affirmation of what is worthwhile.”