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Mourning Diary October 26, 1977 - September 15, 1979

Mourning Diary October 26, 1977 - September 15, 1979

Author: Roland Barthes
$34.00(NZD)  inc GST
Available Stock: 1

“Who knows? Maybe something valuable in these notes.” Does a series of notes on how a work might come to be written itself constitute a work? The day after his mother’s death in 1977, Barthes began writing observations on his mourning for her on small slips of paper. The fact that he isolated this accumulation from his other work (Camera Lucida, also addressing loss and memory, but via consideration of photography, specifically a photograph of his mother, was also written in this period) as well as intimations that making these notes into a book would bring the process of mourning to a close, rather than writing a book for posterity, as, he admits, has been the case for his previous books, suggests that had Barthes not had an unfortunate encounter with a laundry van in 1980, he might have used these notes to write a book. These notes are not that book, but it could be the case that these notes, for all their inconsistencies, vaguenesses and banalities, make a rawer and more compelling book than if they had been made into the book that Barthes had perhaps intended (this might also not be the case, of course), for the notes sketch nebulae from which diamonds might be compressed (if that was Barthes’s creative process) and demonstrate that his more rigorously intellectual works have emotional bases that they are perhaps constructed to conceal. Of his mother’s recent death (he  had shared an apartment with her for 60 years), Barthes writes, “I don’t want to talk about it, for fear of making literature out of it, although as a matter of fact literature originates within these truths.” Instead, he observes himself and his mourning: “In taking these notes, I’m trusting myself to the banality that is in me.” His loss alters the way he sees both life and literature, emphasising the significance of the seemingly banal and diminishing the importance of the seemingly profound. “Everywhere, I see each individual under the aspect of ineluctably having-to-die. And no less obviously, I see them as not knowing this to be so.” “My suffering is inexpressible but all the same utterable,” he notes. It is the very shortcomings of language, the necessity of labelling his suffering as intolerable, that makes his suffering tolerable. “The indescribableness of my mourning results from my failure to hystericise it. Maman’s death is perhaps the one thing in my life that I have not responded to neurotically. My grief has not been hysterical; doubtless, more hysterically parading my depression, I would have been less unhappy. I see that the non-neurotic is not good.” “Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering,” writes Barthes, and, despite his assurances that this will not happen (“my mourning does not wear away, because it is not continuous” (“I waver between the observation that I’m unhappy only by moments, and the conviction that in actual fact I am continually, all the time, unhappy.”)), his mourning does in fact wear away, “gradually narcissism gives way to a sad egoism.” Narcissism being a literary mode; egoism not, the diary becomes sporadic and less focused as this process advances. Early on, Barthes states, “I live in my suffering, and that makes me happy,” but eventually he has trouble maintaining his identification with his mother (“henceforth and forever I am my own mother,” he had said), and his unhappiness changes its texture: “I left a place where I was unhappy and it did not make me happy to leave it.” Eventually, observing the exhaustion of grief in the maintenance of its referents, he concludes, “we don’t forget, but something vacant settles in.”




"In the sentence 'She's no longer suffering, ' to what, to whom does 'she' refer? What does that present tense mean?" --Roland Barthes, from his diary
The day after his mother's death in October 1977, Roland Barthes began a diary of mourning. For nearly two years, the legendary French theorist wrote about a solitude new to him; about the ebb and flow of sadness; about the slow pace of mourning, and life reclaimed through writing. Named a Top 10 Book of 2010 by "The New York Times" and one of the Best Books of 2010 by "Slate" and "The Times Literary Supplement," "Mourning Diary" is a major discovery in Roland Barthes's work: a skeleton key to the themes he tackled throughout his life, as well as a unique study of grief--intimate, deeply moving, and universal.


Author description

Roland Barthes was born in 1915. A French literary theorist, philosopher, and critic, he influenced the development of various schools of theory, including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, and post-structuralism. He died in 1980.

Stock Information

General Fields

  • : 9780374533113
  • : Hill & Wang
  • : Hill & Wang
  • : March 2012
  • : 209mm X 139mm X 20mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : illustrations
  • : Roland Barthes
  • : Paperback / softback
  • : 410.92
  • : 260