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Mourning Diary Hardcover – October 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

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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Review

A belated and unexpected gift. (The London Review of Books)

A writer whose books of criticism and personal musings must be admired as serious and beautiful works of the imagination. (Edmund White)

Though Barthes left behind disciples, there can be no replacing him; his brilliance has a wavelength all its own. (JOHN UPDIKE)

This is pure Barthes: to write the very words that show how and why words have failed him. (Thomas Larson, Contrary Magazine)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; English Language edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080906233X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809062331
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #958,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Wong on May 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Roland Barthes' Mourning Diary is the most accurate, poignant written account of how grief is experienced. Barthes does not revert to cliche or overwrought metaphor--he does not attempt to apologize for the way he experiences mourning after his mother dies. Instead, these short fragments explore the process of living that one undergoes in the presence of absence that death most acutely is. This book is a treasured companion for any thinking mind who recognizes that "grief" is often most overwhelming when there is no feeling or emotivity involved.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sally Johnson on June 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unlike a few of the recent Barthes publications his estate is digging up, this one is a gem. I'd give it five stars but I tend to save that for complete masterpieces. It could be five though. He hits on subtle feelings that elude most writers, especially on a topic such as this one, that could so easily turn corny. If you like Barthes or poetic writing and detest self-help books this one should be a great fit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ignacio Sarmiento on March 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really liked this book. More than a critical or philosophical text, this is a window to enter into Barthes' head since the moment his mother died. However, I think that this text might shed light on other Barthes's books as Camera Lucida. It is a very personal book, intimate, but with a really good reflection about life and death
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Roland Barthes was French, so his view of death is slightly different from that of Americans, who view of death a sort of tremendous hindrance, an "infection" caught by the survivor, which must be cured or rid of - a sort of psychological dis-ease.

Self-help books abound on death, particularly the death of spouses and children. There are almost no books on the death of parents, but the fact is that the death of parents (particularly if one had a close, loving relationship with the parents) is a dramatic and life-changing event. Nothing will ever be the same after the death of parents.

In his diary, Barthes is open about his feelings. Often his entries are one-liners, but always are clearly expressed. It explains the feelings of a survivor moving through mourning, which is something I was grateful for, after having read so many books intended to serve as self-help models on how to overcome the feelings that come with mourning. Whether religiously-based or secular, most books for mourners can't help but bash mourners on the head just a little bit about how they "must" see the person is in "a better place," and how they should start taking steps to "move on" and away from the person that passed. They dwell on this, while softening the blow by saying that one shouldn't hurry. Prodding the mourner to stop it already, as if the mourner could stop the mourning behavior, or as if mourning were some sort of self-imposed toxic behavior, is what most books about death focus on. It can make a mourner feel a bit crazy to have this subtle get-over-it encouragement. Mourning is neither self-imposed, nor is it toxic to feel what is natural to be felt upon losing a very loved person that was an integral part of one's life.
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