Over the span of the summer I have dedicated my reading to one book in particular. “A Lover’s Discourse – Fragment” by Roland Barthes. In short one might call it the encyclopedia of love. It is 80 chapters each dealing with a notion related to love.
I must admit that it wasn’t an easy read. I have added many new words to my vocabulary, but even though it took me almost 2 months to get through it, the hard work was definitely worth it. Partly because I could relate many of his thoughts to my own life and feel like I have got to know myself better. Furthermore because it was really beautifully written (Of cause I can only speak for the translated version). There are so many layers to this book that it would be impossible to explain without writing an even thicker book, but there are some of his general ideas, which I would like to highlight in this post.
Although it is set up as fragments the protagonist in the book is “the amorous subject - the person who is in love”, and the way he chooses to deal with himself as an amorous subject and his “loved being - the one he loves”.
On of the most interesting idea in the book and one, which I have never given any thought before, is this:
Any requests to find love; to love somebody and hope for the return of feelings; is a basic human wish to be brought back to infancy. To dwell in the warm safe environment of the arms of the mother and her loving embrace.
There is no desire to own the loved object but on the contrary to belong to him. The amorous subject is dependant on the loved being to ensure his happiness, like the child is dependant on the mother for nurture and care in order to be happy. This is interesting because it tells us something about the act of giving without receiving something back. It explains to us why people are willing to live with suffering in the name of love. The amorous subject gives himself to the loved being without expecting anything; however in the hope that the being will embrace and provide him with the love and care to nurture his desire.
The discourse is what the amorous subject express towards the loved being. A discourse, which is an unuttered language, an inner dialogue that one creates when one is in love. This discourse is spoken by 1000 of subjects, only each individual speaks it differently and no one can understand one another, not even two subjects who speak towards each other.
“The other speaks a different world”
The discourse is a form of storytelling: A story that I build inside my head about us. Therefore it is a discourse of solitude.
It is like Nietzsche said; “The world is my idea”.
Each subject bases the discourse on his own image-repertoire. Images all involving the loved being. Each amorous subject has his own reality in which the loved being is the center.
“The other does not speak but he inscribes something within each of those who desire him”
The loved object acts, the amorous subject interprets that act. He takes every sign and filter through his image repertoire; images, which are all involving the loved being. Each subject projects it’s own feelings upon the sign coming from the other.
“ I seek to harm myself, I expel myself from my paradise.”
Violence is closely connected to the discourse. The violence is what I start imagining as soon as the amorous relation doesn’t go the way I hoped it would.
Within the amorous relation there are always two people telling their separate story of what is actually happening. They can never affirm each other, just like two normal subjects can never affirm their opinion of a single object.
Example: I (being the amorous subject) see you (my loved being) with flowers in you hand. I instantly think they are for me. If they are not I start wondering for who they might be. Maybe you have another one in your heart etc? If you don’t return my calls I instantly feel that you don’t want me anymore.
Each scene like that, which the amorous subject is exposed to will scratch the wound of the soul and cause suffering. The amorous subject creates his own clouds and in this way it is violent. It is violent on a mental level. It hurts where no one can see it just like the discourse is spoken in a place where no one can hear it.
“You don’t hurt me, but I hurt myself.”
The other is so unattainable because the amorous subject can never fully grasp him. There is a certain element of absence although the other is physically present. The amorous subject will always desire to get more from the loved being than he can. Should he be in the position of knowing everything about the loved being and every way to satisfy the desire of that being; then he would change position and become the mother. The mother who know the needs of her child, who will love the child no matter what, and who has no fear of losing the love and devotion of her child.
Because of this dependency the loved being will always have a large impact on the amorous subjects live. On his entire doing from the moment they meet, where the amorous subject feels overwhelmed and live in a state of euphoria, to the days where the first cloud appears. Then maybe the end of things and how much the loved being and the discourse towards him can still linger long after they have parted their ways.
“And, long after the amorous relation is allayed, I keep the habit of hallucinating the being I have loved: Sometimes I am still in anxiety over a telephone call that is late, and no matter who is on the line, I imagine I recognize the voice I once loved. I am an amputee who still feels pain in his missing leg”
This is more or less the essence of the book but if you feel yourself intrigued I would recommend taking a deeper plunge and reading it. I am sure the reading of it can be done in less than two months, as I was being over particular to be able to grasp and understand everything.