Fragments of Loss

Roland Barthes at 9 with his mother

Roland Barthes' diary entries chronicling his grief for his mother, with whom he lived most of his life. The entries are published in Mourning Diaries.

Here is Barthes at his most lucid and moving:

November 5th
Sad afternoon. Shopping. Purchase (frivolity) of a tea cake at the bakery. Taking care of the customer ahead of me, the girl behind the counter says VoilĂ . The expression I used when I brought maman something, when I was taking care of her. Once, toward the end, half-conscious, she repeated, faintly, VoilĂ  ("I'm here," a word we used with each other all our lives).

The word spoken by the girl at the bakery brought tears to my eyes. I kept on crying quite a while back in the silent apartment.

That's how I can grasp my mourning. Not directly in solitude, empirically, etc.; I seem to have a kind of ease, of control that makes people think I'm suffering less than they would have imagined. But it comes over me when our love for each other is torn apart once again. The most painful point at the most abstract moment...

Translated from the French by Richard Howard

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