From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. These penseÌües on the process of grieving the loss of a mother are an invitation to eavesdrop on a densely qualified (in the finest sense) rational mind touched by eternal loss. While continuing his life work, the great French cultural critic Barthes (Mythologies) kept notes of sadness and selfreflection on slips of paper. This fragmentary book begins the night after his mother's death; informing it all is the presence of absence. Although conflicted by the very process of making literature from grief, Barthes (1915–1980) contemplates such day-to-day, unexpected spells of sadness as living in an empty apartment; how the role reversal of caring for a dying parent affected him; the larger mysteries of time; and his own generalized mental state ("Not even the desire to commit suicide"). Compiler and annotator LeÌüger is to be commended, as is redoubtable translator Howard, who, in a nostalgic afterword, describes both his experience with Barthes's mother, Henriette, and the relative merits of the craft of rendering any book into another language. This volume is both a window into the soul of a philosopher and a unique contribution to the inspirational literature of the adult child left behind. 8 pages of b&w illus.
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“A revelation to readers of the great Barthes.” —Judith Thurman, The New Yorker podcast
“This book’s unvarnished quality is the source of its wrecking cumulative power. Barthes’s ironic intellect is here wrapped around his nakedly beating heart.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Precise and touching memories intersect with spare and at times desperate notes on time, death and grief, written despite ‘the fear of making literature out of it.’” —Julian Barnes, The Times Literary Supplement
“A collection of aphorisms, sadnesses, self-analysis: a journal of savage intimacy.” —Adam Thirlwell, The New Republic
“A beautiful, lapidary portrait of mourning.” —Meghan O’Rourke, Slate