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Of wordless wordsmiths.


“Inexpressible Love

to write –
Enticements, arguments, and impasses generated by the desire to “express” amorous feeling in a “creation” (particularly of writing).

Two powerful myths have persuaded us that love could, should be sublimated in aesthetic creation:

the Socratic myth (loving serves to “engender a host of beautiful discourses”)

and the romantic myth (I shall produce an immortal work by writing my passion).

Yet Werther, who used to draw abundantly and skillfully, cannot draw Charlotte’s portrait (he can scarcely sketch her silhouette, which is precisely the thing about her that first captivated him).

“I have lost… the sacred, life-giving power with which I created worlds about me.”


On the one hand, this is saying nothing; on the other, it is saying too much: impossible to adjust. My expressive needs oscillate between the mild little haiku summarizing a huge situation, and a great flood of banalities.

I am both too big and too weak for writing: I am alongside it, for writing is always dense, violent, indifferent to the infantile ego which solicits it. Love has of course a complicity with my language (which maintains it), but it cannot be lodged in my writing.


What obstructs amorous writing is the illusion of expressivity: as a writer, or assuming myself to be one, I continue to fool myself as to the effects of language: I do not know that the word “suffering” expresses no suffering and that, consequently, to use it is not only to communicate nothing but even, and immediately, to annoy, to irritate (not to mention to absurdity).


What writing demands, and what any lover cannot grant it without laceration, is to sacrifice a little of his Image-repertoire, and to assure thereby, through his language, the assumption of a little reality.


To try to write love is to confront the muck of language: that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive) by the limitless expansion of the ego, by emotive submersion) and impoverished (by the codes on which love diminishes and levels it).


To know that one does not write for the other, to know that these things I am going to write will never cause me to be loved by the one I love (the other), to know that writing compensates for nothing, sublimates nothing, that it is precisely there where you are not – this is the beginning of writing.”

– Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (1978)

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