cover image Mourning Diary: October 26, 1977–September 15, 1979

Mourning Diary: October 26, 1977–September 15, 1979

Roland Barthes, text compiled and annotated by Nathalie Léger, trans. from the French by Richard Howard, Hill and Wang, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8090-6233-1

These pensées 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 Léger 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. (Oct. 19)