In April 1977, Barthes published his fourteenth book: Fragments d’un discours amoureux. Like his twelfth one, Le Plaisir du Texte, it consists of a series of extracts arranged in alphabetical order,1 and like all the others it deals with the problem of language and communication. Unlike his previous books, however, Fragments d’un discours amoureux has its starting point not in literature, mass culture, fashion or foreign travel, but in personal relationships. In talking about love—a subject which, Barthes argues, is neglected in our current obsession with sex—it explores what at first might appear to be a paradox: that the person who loves—l’amoureux —is essentially passive. Although he may take the initiative in pursuing his beloved, he does so in order that he himself may be recognised and loved. ‘Un homme n’est pas féminisé parce qu’il ’est inverti’, writes Barthes at the very beginning of the book,2 ’mais parce qu’il est amoureux’ [’A man is not feminised because he is a homosexual, but because he is in love’]. This passivity is most marked when we suffer from the loved one’s absence, and Barthes is attractively open about the personal experience which led him to the recognition of the ideas exposed and analysed in Fragments d’un discours amoureux. As a child, he explains, he had not learned the adult art of temporarily forgetting the loved one when he or she is not there. When his mother went out to work, a long way from home, he lived through ‘interminable, abandoned days’. In the evening, when she was due to return, he would go and wait for her at the U bis bus stop at Sèvres-Babylone. ‘The buses went past,’ he writes, ‘one after another. She was in none of them.i3
KeywordsMass Culture Psychological Analysis Foreign Travel French Literature French Tradition
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