Excerpts from “A Lover’s Discourse” by Roland Barthes


déclaration / declaration

The amorous subject’s propensity to talk copiously, with repressed feeling, to the loved being, about his love for that being, for himself, for them: the declaration does not bear upon the avowal of love, but upon the endlessly glossed form of the amorous relation.

1.      Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. The emotion derives from a double contact: on the one hand, a whole activity of discourse discreetly, indirectly focuses upon a single signified, which is “I desire you,” and releases, nourishes, ramifies it to the point of explosion (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself); on the other hand, I enwrap the other in my words, I caress, brush against, talk up this contact, I extend myself to make the commentary to which I submit the relation endure.



adorable / adorable

Not managing to name the specialty of his desire for the loved being, the amorous subject falls back on this rather stupid word: adorable!


3.     I encounter millions of bodies in my life; of these millions, I may desire some hundreds; but of these hundreds, I love only one. The other with whom I am in love designates for me the specialty of my desire. This choice, so rigorous that it retains only the Unique, (Lacan) constitutes, it is said, the difference between the analytical transference and the amorous transference; one is universal, the other specific. It has taken many accidents, (Proust) many surprising coincidences (and perhaps many efforts), for me to find the Image which, out of a thousand, suits my desire. Herein a great enigma, to which I shall never possess the key: Why is it that I desire So-and-so? Why is it that I desire So-and-so lastingly, longingly? Is it the whole of So-and-so I desire (a silhouette, a shape, a mood)? And, in that case, what is it in this loved body which has the vocation of a fetish for me? What perhaps incredibly tenuous portion—what accident? The way a nail is cut, a tooth broken slightly aslant, a lock of hair, a way of spreading the fingers while talking, while smoking? About all these folds of the body, I want to say that they are adorableAdorable means: this is my desire, insofar as it is unique: “That’s it! That’s it exactly (which I love!” Yet the more I experience the specialty of my desire, the less I can give it a name; to the precision of the target corresponds a wavering of the name; what is characteristic of desire, proper to desire, can produce only an impropriety of the utterance. Of this failure of language, there remains only one trace: the word “adorable” (the right translation of “adorable” would be the Latin ipse: it is the self, himself, herself, in person.)

LACAN: “It is not everyday that you encounter what is so constituted as to give you precisely the image of your desire.”
PROUST: Scene of the specialty of desire: Jupien and Charlus meet in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Guermantes (at the beginning of Cities of the Plain.)

4.     Adorable is the futile vestige of a fatigue—the fatigue of language itself. From word to word, I struggle to put “into other words” the ipseity of my Image, to express improperly the propriety of my desire: a journey at whose end my final philosophy can only be to recognize—and to practice—tautology. The adorable is what is adorable. Or again: I adore you because you are adorable, I love you because I love you. What thereby closes off the lover’s language is the very thing which has instituted it: fascination. For to describe fascination can never, in the last analysis, exceed this utterance: “I am fascinated.” Having attained the end of language, where it can merely repeat its last word like a scratched record, I intoxicate myself upon its affirmation: is not tautology that preposterous state in which are to be found, all values being confounded, the glorious end of the logical operation (Nietzsche), the obscenity of stupidity, and the explosion of the Nietzschean yes?

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