A major discovery: The lost diary of a great mind—and an intimate, deeply moving study of grief
The day after his mother's death in October 1977, the influential philosopher Roland Barthes began a diary of mourning. Taking notes on index cards as was his habit, he reflected on a new solitude, on the ebb and flow of sadness, and on modern society's dismissal of grief. These 330 cards, published here for the first time, prove a skeleton key to the themes he tackled throughout his work. Behind the unflagging mind, "the most consistently intelligent, important, and useful literary critic to have emerged anywhere" (Susan Sontag), lay a deeply sensitive man who cherished his mother with a devotion unknown even to his closest friends.
These pense es 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 Le ger 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.