Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Finally I've caught up and read last week's New Yorker,
especially moved by Roland Barthes' grief notes,
which he started writing after the death of his 84-year-old
mother, Henriette. Perhaps these became the stuff of his
final book, Camera Lucida, which is a kind of tribute
to his 'maman' as he ruminates on photography
and memory and loss.

But these sweet, diary fragments are raw, made before theory,
in the middle of mourning. Translated by Richard Howard, Barthes'
notes capture that sense of upheaval that stalks you after loss.
Barthes lived with his mother all of his life. He died three years
after his mother.

I love the photo of them -- his long
legs, her long skirt, the sandy road.

In the sentence "She's no longer suffering,"
to what, to whom does "she" refer?
What does that present tense mean?
Sometimes, very briefly, a blank
moment--a kind of numbness--which
is not a moment of forgetfulness.
This terrifies me.
The desires I had before her death
(while she was sick) can no longer
be fulfilled, for that would mean it is her
death that allows me to fulfill them--her
death might be a liberation in some sense
with regard to my desires. But her death
has changed me, I no longer desire what
I used to desire. I must wait--supposing
that such a thing could happen--for a new
desire to form, a desire following her death.
A strange new acuity, seeing (in the street)
people's ugliness or their beauty.
I don't want to talk about it, for fear
of making literature out of it--or
without being sure of not doing so
--although as a matter of fact
literature originates within these truths.


Heidi Hart said...

Mourning on the mind lately. Thanks for including Barthes' words!

Pam Hart said...

I think it's the time of the year.