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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A furtive contact

Down with a sore throat, I am re-reading Roland Barthes' "A Lover's Discourse." It is structured as a glossary, so you can read entries in no particular order--wherever the book opens, perhaps, or when you come across an intriguing concept.

I like the way he deconstructs the language of love: intelligent, precise, sometimes ironic. He covers everything from jealousy to writing love letters, from waiting to scenes and to the inevitable i-love-yous. It's a good book to be reading if you are suffering from a heartbreak because it helps you look at it in a cool, surgical manner and you need a little bit of reason in the midst of that emotional turmoil. That was the case with me when I discovered Barthes seven years ago.

I would be quoting half the book here if I could because I like what he writes and how he does it. But here is a short paragraph taken from the entry called "Contacts: The figure refers to any interior discourse provoked by a furtive contact with the body (and more precisely the skin) of the desired being":

A squeeze of the hand--enormous documentation--a tiny gesture within the palm, a knee which doesn't move away, an arm extended, as if quite naturally, along the back of a sofa and against which the other's head gradually comes to rest--this is the paradisiac realm of subtle and clandestine signs: a kind of festival not of the senses but of meaning.

I love those secret signs loaded with meaning and promise--there's so much excitement and thrill in them, when you are still exploring an unknown territory and anything can be.

14 comments:

Polly said...

I love Barthes and I love Lovers Discourse and you're right, it is extremely surgical. I bought it some time ago precisely because I was looking for answers and I found solace I needed in the book's cool attitude...

Have you read his Image-Music-Text? Some great ideas there...

Jelica said...

No, I haven't read anything else by him, Polly. I remember looking for his other works in our university library but there were none, except for A Lover's Discourse. I will try the one you recommend. Have you read Camera Lucia? That could be interesting--his take on photography :)

Jo said...

That's lovely. I love writing that is lyrical like that. It makes us feel the sensation as we are reading it.

I will have to check that book out.

Jelica said...

I do hope you will like it, Jo.

Ruslan said...

Thanks for the post, Jelica. That's a frightening book: one can recognize oneself on every page.

The Lover's Discourse reminds me of the summer of 1997 when I was reading it in the army in Bulgaria, in a dimly lit room, a AK-47 by my bed, still licking the wounds of a recently ended relationship. I agree it helps.

It helps us see ourselves from outside and makes us understand that we and our loves are not that new.

pollicino said...

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muthu said...

nice lines though jagged at edges, it has a subtle depth....

Delwyn said...

Good morning Ruslan/Jelica,

both such beautiful names...

I am going to have to look for that book. The meaningful furtive touches gave me the shivers...or tingles up my spine....ah ...so long ago....
I have been married for 37 years...and still find him a treasure.

Delwyn said...

P.S. Pollicino dropped his calling card at my place too!!!!

willow said...

"A knee which doesn't move away". I like that. Hope the sore throat is better soon!

Merisi said...

Beautiful!
I haven't read anything by Roland Barthes, now I am inrigued. Thank you for leading me to him! :-)

Get well soon!

Jelica said...

Thanks, everyone! Unfortunately Boris is back in hospital and so am I, so if I don't write or answer comments that is the reason.

julochka said...

anyone who writes "re-reading roland barthes" is awesome in my book. :-) must go and get some off my shelf and reread as well. :-) tho' i'm thinking camera lucida since i'm so into photography at the moment.

i had a whole glorious semester of barthes and only barthes my first year of grad school. bliss.

Siva Ram said...

nicely written