11 Quotes from Roland Barthes’ A LOVER’S DISCOURSE About Love

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LH Johnson

Staff Writer

LH reads, writes and researches children’s books. She's also a librarian, blogger, and makes pretty amazing chocolate brownies. Cake and books, what’s not to love?

I first came across the work of Roland Barthes, literary theorist and wearer of many other hats, in the dizzy, heady days of my undergraduate degree and he’s provided a signpost for me ever since. One of my favorite books of his is A Lover’s Discourse : Fragments, which considers love through the filter of language and literary theory. It is one of the most frustrating and challenging books I’ve ever read. It is also one of the most unbearably perfect. Give yourself a treat and read the whole thing. You won’t forget it, I promise.



  1. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely this: I am the one who waits.
  2. Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.
  3. Someone tells me: this kind of love is not viable. But how can you evaluate viability? Why is the viable a Good Thing? Why is it better to last than to burn?
  4.  What I hide by my language, my body utters. I can deliberately mold my message, not my voice.
  5. Isn’t the most sensitive point of this mourning the fact that I must lose a language — the amorous language? No more ‘I love you’s.
  6. I encounter millions of bodies in my life; of these millions, I may desire some hundreds; but of these hundreds, I love only one.
  7. I have been fulfilled (all my desires abolished by the plenitude of their satisfaction).
  8. I can’t get to know you” means “I shall never know what you really think of me.” I cannot decipher you because I do not know how you decipher me.
  9. ..perhaps we shall never see each other again; perhaps we shall meet again but fail to recognize each other: our exposure to different seas and suns has changed us.
  10. I thought I was suffering from not being loved, and yet it is because I thought I was loved that I was suffering; I lived in the complication of supposing myself simultaneously loved and abandoned.
  11. Love at first sight is a hypnosis.