98 of 104 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 1999
Very, very difficult to read. Not because it is hyper-intellectual and most everyone will need a dictionary on each page. This book is so difficult because it taps into the heart of the crazy abyss of love. It seemed at times as if the book could only be understood by someone in the madness of love as s/he reads it. Having loved before is not enough: the details and precision applied to this insanity are too exact, too punishing, too passionate for me to believe that this book can make the same sense for those in love as for those out of it. By the same token, to read this while in love can be a demolishing experience. To know that this passion has been felt and analyzed so well by someone of towering intellect is little solace to the solitude one feels reading these words. A brilliant and disturbing book.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2000
Some readers may find this book difficult. Barthes never attempts to give us a uniform narrative about love. Instead, as the title implies, he provides us with fragments--some of which come from literature and some from his own philisophical musings--of a lover's point of view. Since childhood, we are taught to think of love as a singualar entity. Whether it is God's love, marriage, passion, or patriotism, we are taught to think of love as a unique, and exclusive prize. But as Barthes' points out, love is built upon fragments, many of which are mundane.
The most compelling part of "Lover's Discourse" is Barthe's dissection of the phrase, "I love you". Drawing upon literary examples and common sense, Barthes asks us what we mean when we state that we love someone. Do we love what they do for us? Do we love how they make us feel? Do we love the idea of them? Are we in love with love itself? This concept is born out by the protagonist Merseault, in Camus' novel, "A Happy Death". The first thing Merseault says to his lover when she wakes up in the morning is, "hello image".
"Lover's Discourse" extracts love from ideology and examines it under a microscope. We may be confused by what we see, and we may not like it, but the view contains more than a glimmer of reality.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2002
A personal favourite. Captures admirably the absurdity of it all. Contains gems like `Even as he obsessively asks himself why he is not loved, the amorous subject lives in the belief that the loved object does love him but does not tell him so.' Also has what is probably the best paragraph ever written on jealousy: `As a jealous man, I suffer four times over: because I am jealous, because I blame myself for being so, because I fear 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.'
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2007
What is love? Perhaps the question has never been answered more succinctly, more completely, and more devastatingly than in *A Lover's Discourse.* In this unique and sly little book, Roland Barthes deconstructs `love,' or, perhaps more accurately, subjects it to a thorough semiotic examination that reveals the psycholinguistic archetypes that comprise all great affairs of the heart--the very definition of which virtually dictates that they all end unhappily.
Barthes examines love in brief chapters, each devoted to a different aspect of the entire humiliating `catastrophe': the helpless infatuation, the agonizing wait beside the telephone that doesn't ring, the jealousy of anyone with access to the beloved, the infantile terror of abandonment, the sense of martyrdom, the suicidal despair...but also the inexplicable enchantment of the seemingly insignificant ((and yet all-too potent)) detail that fatally charms us--the crooked tooth, the dimple, the slant of an eye, the simplest gesture--that causes that one person of all possible people to appear to us as the very image of our desire no matter what suffering they subsequently bring upon us. And they do cause us to suffer, because the lover always loves the beloved more than he or she is loved in return.
It's hard to say whether this book helps to heal a broken heart or turns a stick in it--probably it does a little of both. One thing is certain: this is no *30 Days to Mend a Broken Heart* or such similar self-help collection of insipid platitudes. This is more like chemotherapy. To paraphrase the old joke, Barthes might have cured Cupid of his disease, but, unfortunately, the patient died. If nothing else, *A Lover's Discourse* vividly understands, like even the best of your friends do not, what you are going through when your heart is broken. What Barthes does that is so unique here is to put into words, with an almost scientific detachment and exactitude, the total emotional chaos of an experience that is beyond the power of one in the throes of it to express coherently. `Yes, that's it exactly,' the lover mutters, recognizing himself in these pages, `that's *exactly* how I feel.' Some aspects of love are simply too embarrassing to share with anyone--Barthes doesn't turn away from a single one of them. There's no modesty here: the heart is laid open. This is radical surgery.
One undeniably prescriptive advantage of this text is that it pinpoints with sobering exactitude the way one was *not* loved by the beloved. You no longer need doubt yourself, to be left on the hook forever questioning: `Did she love me/did she love me not?' At the same time you recognize yourself in Barthes' description of love and say `Yes, I loved her just like that' you also recognize your beloved, or more accurately, the absence of your beloved, and can finally assert without further doubt "Yes, that is precisely how she *did not* love me.'
An extraordinary work by an extraordinary intellect about an ordinary experience that leaves everyone stupefied, *A Lover's Discourse* comes as close as its likely to be possible to lucidly describing the indescribable. Is it a cure for a broken heart? Perhaps. If love is a disease that one is cured of simply by knowing the symptoms--an illusion whose power to charm is greatly reduced once you discover the magician's tricks. The magician, of course, being you.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 1998
if you have ever suffered from the feeling of love, desire to know more about whom you love and lack of discourse with her/him, you should read this, which'll help you understand where you are, why you are suffering from it, and realize your situation more objectively. Another virtue of this book is its delicate and adequate style in every phrase and detail. Please try it. And I hope perfect accomplishment of your beautiful love, whether it is one-sided or not. Lastly, be faithful to yourself, your lover and your love.
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2000
All academic works should be modeled after this one. To make literature speak: to make the text yearn, cry, fear, love, and affirm. The pleasure of the text?
Is this a book about human love? Or is it also a book about loving the word? Does the lover love a beloved? Or is the beloved really the word?
This book is for those of us who cannot participate in reality as it is, but who are always filtering the lived moment through the books that we have read. This book which seeks to affirm at a time of discontent and irony, affirms us in the end.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2002
Barthes's fascination with Structuralism is abundant in this examination of the terms that could perhaps summarize the incomplete thoughts of an anxious lover. He asserts that the thoughts and words of a lover remain suspended-- they show themselves as thin representations of the truth that lurks in the the lover. Sentences trail off, remain unfulfilled, and are swallowed by frustration. Reading this, it is easy to say, "No kidding! I'm so glad that someone could put this into words!" And that is the torture of his paradox. The words are weak-- the thesaurus will forever be incomplete. The text is a work of metafiction, if ever there were one. Easy to read; yet compelling, Barthes is the essence of the bittersweet.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2012
When I was a small child my mother used to listen to a Radio Serial called "When a Girl Marries:For all those in Love and For All who can Remember"If we can leave aside all bourgeois and stereotype interpretations of this , I would say that this is not too bad an interpretation of Barthes book,and I am thinking of the "And all those in Love and for all those who can remember" bit!
Leaving aside the bourgeois and stereotype bits IS important as this book is the work of a learned man who loves nuances, who catches the tail of experiences as they pass by! it is a difficult book to review because, among other things, too discursive a treatment would miss one or more of the glorious aspects of this work.
So, how am I going to introduce this book?First let me say the book is WONDERFUL! it is a sheer delight and not least in its "economy"; I say economy because each fragment is worth a couple of hours or so reflection! This work takes you to the "depths"; to the depths of what? This book is an "ultrasound" of the psycho-amorous;an XRay of the fall into love,and insofar as it does such it avoids all binaries such as homosexual/hetrosexual, male/female and most if not all other stereotyped binaries to boot. Well for me, the title which I have given to the work says it for me. Let me try to make myself clear.
There are those who find the Amazon Jungle fascinating, its unity and its diversity, its astounding beauties and the elements which produce "fear and trembling". All this is not to leave aside the CHALLENGE, with the accompanying realization that those who venture therein may even find suicide a real option.For these and other reasons I find a great similarity between the Amorous and the Amazon;what we are looking at here is the conquest involving the HUMAN in both instances.
The Amorous journey,for some strange reason,nay, for many strange reasons, appears to involve a struggle(for most)in the innermost psychic jungle which is just across the river of complacent, normally respectable human beings. On the surface there is a flow; underneath there is the lurking FLUX! falling in love for many, if not most, is a fall into the ABYSS.
Roland Barthes reports( I do not say "explores") the delights and, to use a Postmodern word, the deconstructions of that abyss. Like the Amazon, there is the HYPNOTIC (Cf.p189), the fascination with the image(ibid.), the "ravishment",the instantaneous capture(p.197). I AM IN LOVE!
Then comes the entrancing EXPLORATION of the image;the familiarizing of oneself with the ,yes, the EXOTIC. Dates, interlocutions (personal and telephonic) little trips here and there;literary correspondences and plunges into Intimacy. The exploration into the labyrinthine jungle of the libidinal life has commenced. One becomes satiated with sight and sonority.The Amazonian delights evoke eternity."Lord, let me stay here, this place/space is perfection itself";we have returned to the Platonic prenatal paradise. This Roland Barthes tells us is "The sweetness of the beginning"(p.197). AND SO IT IS!
Now comes what we do not want to hear and we do not want to experience,however, it seems we MUST, at least more often than not! THE SEQUEL.this sequel appears as a " downspiraling ", an entropic PULL, a pull back towards the postnatal forgetting. The Amazon begins to 'fight back';it refuses to be taken for granted,it is not only there for our would-be amusement and delights!We succumb to WOUNDS; (sudden inattention of the Loved Object, even momentary; disturbing fraternities ; unanswered calls which bring eternity into time:unavailability ... all ego-destroying). Even one wound ,intentional or not, can begin the depleting of amorous resources of expectations; elements of uncertainty begin to make the trek incipiently questionable.A new psychic companion arises, ANXIETY. It ,of course, is anything but welcome but it seems not to care!
The Amorous explorer had exhausted linguistic possibilities in the use of the word ADORABLE(p.18),it was the summit of description, a verbal clasping of the ineffable; the amorous subject surrenders to holism; Spinoza's cosmos resides in this image. But now, feeling states turn Postmodern and seek to mercilessly deconstruct the explorer's vocabulary,all is not rosey( as at the beginning)in the lush undergrowth! leeches appear and psycho-malarial infection exacerbates the debilitation of first love.
DESPAIR, Werther-like despair enters and the thought (if not final as with Werther ) of not going on, of putting oneself out of the struggle(p.218) suggests itself.With the delirium of defeat which explorers of the Amazon/Amorous experience ,irrationality inserts itself into the thinking equation.
The sky that was so blue between the trees, symbols of nutritional ravishment , but now there are clouds of 'darkening moods"(p.169). if one is not to take Werther's suicide seriously then one MUST go on, even if more of the same lies ahead. There is no going BACK, there is no not going ON one must go AHEAD.
Beware "all ye who would enter here", but I know you will not heed this warning. Such is the allure of THIS jungle of twisted vines, predators galore and heartbreaking disappointments. it seems that going into it we must!
This review has sought to give a glimpse(poor as it is)of the sort of thing you will find in this wonderful book. The review does no justice to Barthes's brilliant language or the enormous and engaging NUANCES of the work.A full treatment would require a full-blown monograph, and then such would fall short of the task. Exploring such is a delight that awaits the one who "picks up and reads"!
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2001
Barthes dissects Love,analyzing it whit the painstaking precision of a skilled forensic.Here you see what one feels when Love,the very hope of it,is like a fallen leaf in a cold winter morning.This is a very sad book,but illuminating,even amusing,in some parts;but alas,fragments are all that remains,when one loves too long in vain.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2009
Love never ceases to be defined, analyzed, intellectualized, talked about and written about. Why? Because it is one of the greatest drives and sources of inspiration.
In A Lover's Discourse, Roland Barthes dissects and studies love in many various fragments. it is mostly the pains of love, the infatuation, the jealousy, the martyrdom, the suffering, the obsession and the elevation of the beloved that he takes up with an almost scientific detachment.
The reader will recognize very well love's different aspects and mechanisms.