The blog of author Dennis Cooper

h presents … Introduction to Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Why I Love Barthes (1978) *

* (restored)


This is a precious little book to understand Roland Barthes and modern writings that happened in the cases of Roland Barthes and Alain Robbe-Grillet. The small volume of this book may cause people to underrate the quality of this book. But I went through many Barthes’s own books before I get to this, and delightfully learned various “theoretic” sides of Barthes’s work in this, more personable, but still finely trimmed, likable languages, while passing through hazy subjects such as memory, seed-bed of tics, cautiousness, contradictory personicity in/against the text, etc. One essay, ‘Why I love Barthes'(1978) is written in the form of cordial dialogue between Robbe-Grillet and Barthes, and the book, followingly, presents other essays on Barthes, (Roland Barthes’s Choice, 1981, Yet Another Roland Barthes, 1995, and I like, I Don’t Like, 1980) in Robbe-Grillet’s own appreciation and tangential, albeit heart-learnt, adoption of Barthes’s personcity in his writing. A trial in this book is to distance a literary friendship from a real friendship between them, and instead, to focus on the text in their lovingly drifting dialogue and their own writings, “Barthes” and “Robbe-Grillet,” both as novelists via the text-slippages and the text-persons. I found it an excellent book for an advanced reader of Roland Barthes, in the textual-proximity from his diligent and amorous reader, Robbe-Grillet, not to mention, discovering its value to approach a friendship of Barthes and Robbe-Grillet, understanding what a literary friendship would be like. Also, Robbe-Grillet’s own essays display the emotions and the sentiments of the modern writer, in his attachments to small thingness such as the object-text, and catalogues of liking & disliking of them, in addition to the writer “Roland Barthes.” A great, little book for theoretic learning on writing and im/personal pleasure and felicity[bonheur], for modern melancholics, in detour of two writers, Roland Barthes and Alain Robbe-Grillet.



Four pages from my scrapbook of Why I love Barthes (1978)


My highlighted, four pages of my scrapbook from Why I love Barthes (1978)

1. A dialogue, an exchange between Barthes and myself, on a certain number of points that are close to my heart, though they’re still very vague in my head
2. The subject: “Why do I love Barthes?”
3. By “Barthes” → Roland Barthes’s Work
4. I still learn texts by heart, as an exercise.
I enjoy doing this.
Whenever I recite a text, generally, in bath, I have the sense that I’m caught up in a much less absent-minded, much more intimate contact, because I can read it absent-mindedly but I can’t easily recite it absent-mindedly. And it’s a much more intimate contact because, when I analyze it, I always feel that I’m eliminating the text.
5. The word “Barthes,” –→ The writer “Barthes”
6. There is, so to speak, not an identity between this person and his text, but on the contrary, a tense, contradictory relationship.
—- “Barthes” *in* the text/ *against* the text
7. Barthes forms the person text that in my view is very close, for instance, to Flaubert.

[I love]
8. In what I’ve just been saying there, already, appears, a certain nuance to the words, “I love”
My relationship to this work-personage, this text-persons, this text-body, a relationship of novelist to novelist —-defines a certain type of amorous relationship of emotional contact.

9 . Everything I’ve just said goes against the notion of “Because”

I feel the intense need to replace it by the idea of “how.”

10. How does it feel when one of his texts is going round in my head?

How do I live with that text?
How do I live with that text?

11. Roland Barthes —- …. His stupidities
12. Alain Robbe-Grillet —- If you want to say something now, Roland, interrupt me straightaway.
Roland, interrupt me straightaway. I love being interrupted. Especially, when I’ve rather lost track of what I’m saying.
13. Roland Barthes —- I ‘m not disagreeing. I am drifting.
      Alain Robbe-Grillet —-

14. Roland Barthes —- I don’t know a single text by heart. And I will go so far as to say (quite obviously) not even any of my own.

15. Amnesia : Montaigne defined himself as outside memory, eluding memory
Amnesia: Montaigne defined himself as outside memory, eluding memory

16. I invented an allegory; I told himself that, arriving here, we’d crossed a Normandy river called the river Memory and that, instead of this place being called Cerisy-la-Salle, it was called Haze-over-Memory. In fact, my amnesia has a character that isn’t brutally negative. My memory lets me down, it’s a haze. I live in a sort of hazy mist, in the impression that I’m always having to struggle with my memory. It’s an idea that would have consequences for writing, writing could be the field of memory’s haze, and memory’s haze, this imperfect memory that’s also an imperfect amnesia, is basically the field of thematics; a theme is something, that’s a both forgotten and not forgotten, and so can’t be captured by structural procedures, precisely because it’s a phenomenon of intensity, or ‘more’ or ‘less.’
17. I’ll drift off at another tangent, this time more of a question: the presence of the body in my text; Jacques-Alain Miller has mentioned it. I don’t think my body is present in my text. I mean that it’s a mystery. I don’t think, for instance, that my bodily drives run through my text.
18. Alain R-G—- your body, for you, but I was talking about your body for me…Obviously, everything I said just now is something you can’t endorse, since, after all, you’re the other…
19. Roland B—- You’re allowing me to have a body for myself.
20. Roland B—-I read a novel that I like, I want to do the same thing, but I seem to have resisted, up until now, certain operations that are supposedly inherent in the novel. For example, the smooth surface, the continuum. Could a novel be written in aphorisms, in fragments? In what conditions? Isn’t the very essence of the novel a certain continuum? I think there’s a resistance here. The second resistance seems to be the relationship to names, to proper names, I don’t know, I wouldn’t be able to invent proper names and I really think that the whole novel resides in proper names —- the novel the way I read it, of course, and I’ve said as much in regard to Proust. For the time being, I feel a resistance to inventing names, at the same time that I really want to invent some. Perhaps I’ll write a novel the day I invent the proper names for that novel. I’ve long thought that there was a third resistance, having to use the word ‘he’, the ‘he’ of the novel, the third-person character; but I’ve started to adapt to this difficulty somewhat by mixing ‘I’ and ‘he’ in Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. As for the relationship between the figure of the thinker and the figure of the novelist. We ought to take another look at the case of Sartre, who has inevitably made a name for himself as a major ‘thinker’ and yet has written novels: but he’s not viewed as a real novelist.
21. Alain R-G —- but a modern novelist, the one who refuses to accept the established order of the novel, the rules of its game, in other words its characters with their names, etc. …The problem of the name has been settled for a long time: I myself wrote a novel where there isn’t a single proper name, in the Labyrinth. Ah, actually yes, there is a proper name: Henry Martin, who appears in the last pages and has no relationship with the book. It’s perfectly possible to write a novelistic text without a proper name.
22. Alain R-G—- Ah, right. So let me try to explain what I mean by novelist: how, for me, the structure of development of an adventure in a novel relates to the structure of development of a conceptual adventure of thought. This, I think, is the difference between trembling and slipping. Just now I conceded that conceptual thought could tremble, but tremble around a fixed axis; in other words it needs a core of solid meaning that will stop it getting runny, like a Camembert.
The structure of a slippage, on the other hand, is totally different; it never stops abandoning positions that it pretends to have won. From Barthes’s first texts, which I found immensely inspiring, for instance the start of Writing Degree Zero, which I could still recite today, I noticed these slippages. In particular, in the rhetorical shape of these fragments of discourse linked together by “in other words,” which means that, “in short,” etc.
You start out from something firm. We know that a language is a corpus of prescriptions and habits common to all the writers of a period’ (that’s clear, that’s how it is), and it immediately starts to slip: which means that a language is a kind of natural ambience wholly pervading the writer’s expression, yet without endowing it with form or content. This is already a kind of swindle since, in reality, it-does not mean that at all. It’s an idea that’s slipped, and it’s going to keep slipping, from metaphor to metaphor. As a result, in a single page, you won’t have found your footing but lost it:
the swimmer who thinks he’s in shallow waters so he can touch bottom will instead have gradually lost his footing completely, even losing the very notion of footing since he now sees himself floating out in the open sea. From the end of the first page, I’m floating, and if I do hang on to any firm idea that would be, for me, the essence of the text. No, that text can’t be separated out, in Sartre’s terms, into a content and a form, I can’t find anything in it apart from its form, it has no content other than this kind of slippage that has occurred. And this strikes me as characteristic.
Florence Auriacombe —- starting from this distinction between trembling and slipping, I am reminded of the theme that’s been referred to, the contrast between aphorism and fragment.
23. The Barthesian fragment is always slipping and its meaning lies not in the bits of content that may appear here and there but instead in the very fact of slipping. ‘Barthesian thought’ (in quotes, since I put thinkers in a different category) lies in slipping and not at all in the elements between which the thought has slipped.
‘Of course not, he didn’t say anything, he kept slipping from one fleeting meaning to another equally fleeting meaning.’ And it was precisely in this very movement of slippage tat resided the functioning of the text, the pleasure I’d taken in listening to it and, for that reason, its importance.
24. Barthes as a modern novelist.
Modern Novel? —- simply presents fragments which, to crown it all, always describe the same thing – a thing which is almost nothing. But the movement of literature is this slippage from one scene to the same scene that repeats itself, in a form that’s barely diverted, barely converted, barely inverted… I can sense that you don’t agree.
25. Roland B —- I do agree, but you’re the modern novelist.
26. Alain R-G —- I was convinced that Barthes hadn’t said anything about me, but quite the opposite, that he was starting to talk to himself, not rigorously, since that would contradict everything. I’ve just said, but in a free floating way, and that the novelist Barthes was already starting to develop in his texts.
27. Roland B —-you develop your argument in order to set out metaphors, in other words felicitous expressions, in yet other words, as Blanchot puts it, expressions as various kinds of felicity[bonheur]. You set out the expression as something felicitous and that is enshrined in all the “in other words,” ‘which means that’ etc. On the level of these little operators of discourse, we could take the investigation much further, in one sense. They’re merely linguistic tics.
28. Roland B —- What is the relationship between the linguistic tic and the operator of discourse?
We ought to mention a type of writing that never gets discussed, but that had a great importance for me as a seed-bed of these tics [insémination de tics] —- Michelet’s writing.
……Michelet’s writing had a profound impact on me, it was a seed-bed—- in good ways, and ad, it has to be said. There are a lot of tics in Michelet, too. Actually, it’s the book of mine which people least talk about and which I can tolerate best.
29. Alain R-G —- (Roland Barthes’s cautiousness[prudence])
“Oh dear, he’s really not taking any risks here, he’s got himself covered on all sides, and, yet again, he’s sheltered from attack


Buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Why-Love-Barthes-Alain-Robbe-Grillet/dp/0745650791/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid;=1375049394&sr;=8-1&keywords;=Why+I+love+Barthes




My favorite images of Roland Barthes, the images of his work-space too




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Wong Kar-Wai is currently working on a new film billed as a sequel to ‘In the Mood for Love’ for better or worse. Everyone, Mr. E’s new FaBlog entry aka ‘Little Ms.Magical Thinking’ has it in for Marianne Williamson. Find out how. ** Bill Hi. ‘Gust’ is such a nice word. Yeah, I was surprised I hadn’t done a post on him before too. My favorite is ‘Fallen Angels’, but I pretty much like all of them through ‘Happy Together’ quite a bit. I haven’t seen the director’s cut or whatever of ‘The Grandmaster’, but I found the release version so disheartening that I switched it off pretty early on. ** Sypha, Perhaps that’s a sign for you to get familiar. ‘Popism’ is a lot of fun, yeah, I agree. Did not know Jung was an artist. Curious, that. I’ll hunt some. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. To me the slippage is already happening in ‘In the Mood for Love’, although it’s certainly much better than the films that followed. I actually reviewed ‘ItMfL’ for Artforum at the time, but I see the review is not online. I’m with you on wishing he would find his energised, spontaneous side again, but I suspect that’s a pipe dream. Everyone, Mr. Erickson has reviewed ‘The Babadook’ director Jennifer Kent’s new film ‘The Nightingale’ here. ** _Black_Acrylic, Congrats on finishing the story and high hopes that the editor knows what’s good for her. Yes, I’ve followed your song challenge picks on FB. Very enlightening. Everyone, the mighty _Black_Acrylic has a hot offer for you. In his words, ‘Dunno if you’re aware of a thing on social media called the 30 Day Song Challenge? I did it as a break from all the constant Brexit opinion on my feed, and in a world of constant trolling and abuse I found it to be a welcome spot of fun. Here is my list in the form of a Twitter thread and maybe you’ll find something you like.’ ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. Yeah, really great talk with you! ‘Fallen Angels’ is my fave of his. High five. On the one hand, it seems too simple to decide his break from Christopher Doyle was his downfall, but, on the other hand, that would explain it, wouldn’t it? As you probably know, Doyle quit ‘In the Mood for Love’ part way through, and the film is a visual Frankenstein of bonafide Doyle style and faked Doyle to make the film hang together. There is that problem that happens when directors start to take themselves too seriously, and I do think that could have happened with him. Like you, I thought there were nice things in ‘2046’, but I more thought it had the same problems of ‘ItMfL’ on a bigger and more fatal level. Like I told someone above, I couldn’t make it through ‘The Grandmaster’. ** Misanthrope, Thanks. Chill weekend sounds mighty good. I want a de-chilled weekend. Well, de-chilled me-wise not de-chilled weather wise. Compare notes? ** Okay. Today I am restoring a great and visually exciting post made for prior version of here and for everyone then and now by the excellent writer and scholar and d.l. h. Enjoy the heck out of it. See you tomorrow.


  1. I’ve only read a couple of Barthes’ books, but I remember loving them right away and didn’t need much explaining. I do need to check out this Robbe-Grillet book though.

    Dennis, I can totally see you giving up on The Grandmaster. I watched the whole thing with a couple companions who fell asleep within 15 minutes (not uncommon for them!); I was grumbling the entire way.

    Jeff J, that’s an interesting theory from your friend on Wong Kar-wai and Hong Kong. I actually didn’t think the earlier pre-’97 films were about Hong Kong so much, but In the Mood for Love, 2046 and The Grandmaster were almost too obviously about the Hong Kong/China relationship. It’s kind of worked out in the relationships between the Cantonese-speaking characters and the Mandarin-speaking characters.


  2. Well I love Roland Barthes — and so does Jacques Nolot and Andre tchine (his two major boyfriends, who interestingly worked with one another on several film projects) Philippe Noiret plays barthes in Techine’s “J’embrasse pas”

    Truly sensational pic or Barthes with a pair of twinks (probably at “Le Palace”)

    Christopher Doyle makes films on his own. His episode of “Paris Je T’Aime” is teriffic. He also appears as the boyfriend of the hero’s gay father in Gus’ “Paranoid Park”

  3. Dennis, this page (in the center) has a bunch of the paintings from his so-called “Red Book” that you can scroll through:


    The Red Book was a private journal that Jung kept during the years of his nervous breakdown, when he experienced many bizarre dreams and visions (that would later go on to inspire many of his theories and psychiatric practices). My parents got me the facsimile copy of the Red Book a few Christmases ago… it’s so big it won’t even fit on any of my bookcases, ha ha. Anyway, the one I’m reading now also has an essay on Jung’s feelings towards what was then modern art, which apparently he wasn’t too keen on: he didn’t care for Picasso, and didn’t like Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” (which he likened to as resembling a “cigar shop after an earthquake”! He did like Dali, though… it would seem that the art he did like was medieval stuff (mainly related to alchemy) and the French Symbolist artists like Odilon Redon, though at an art show he did once by a painting by Yves Tanguy.

  4. That’s a great book. Wonderful blog. Roland Barthes is such a superb thinker/writer.

  5. I watched that Jeremy Deller rave doc ‘Everybody In The Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992’ just now and it was everything I hoped for and more! Some incredible vintage footage, lots of political insight and even the students attending his lecture were a super bright and articulate crowd. It’s on the BBC iPlayer for a UK audience and I hope on other platforms for an international audience will follow, because it most definitely is not to be missed.

    Bresson’s Une Femme Douce is on next week at the DCA and I cannot wait to see it. The film is revived today in UK cinemas and gets raved about here by the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw.

    • From the blurb on the BBC site:

      “Acid house is often portrayed as a movement that came out of the blue, inspired by little more than a handful of London-based DJs discovering ecstasy on a 1987 holiday to Ibiza. In truth, the explosion of acid house and rave in the UK was a reaction to a much wider and deeper set of fault lines in British culture, stretching from the heart of the city to the furthest reaches of the countryside, cutting across previously impregnable boundaries of class, identity and geography.

      With Everybody in the Place, the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller upturns popular notions of rave and acid house, situating them at the very centre of the seismic social changes that reshaped 1980s Britain. Rare and unseen archive materials map the journey from protest movements to abandoned warehouse raves, the white heat of industry bleeding into the chaotic release of the dancefloor.

      We join an A-level politics class as they discover these stories for the first time, viewing the story of acid house from the perspective of a generation for whom it is already ancient history. We see how rave culture owes as much to the Battle of Orgreave and the underground gay clubs of Chicago as it does to shifts in musical style: not merely a cultural gesture, but the fulcrum for a generational shift in British identity, linking industrial histories and radical action to the wider expanses of a post-industrial future.”

  6. This looks great! Haven’t read much by either so I’ll have to dive into this.
    Kudos on the highlighting. Makes the site pop. Kinda surprised you chose to do it that way, but I dig it.
    Got a couple new poems up on Silent Auctions Mag the other day. Cool press. Got some Troy Weaver in there and other good ones. Good company.
    Still hot as shit here. Still gotta see the new Tarantino. The friend I usually see movies with is so disinterested in anything having to do with QT that he’s completely backing out. I get it, but it looks enjoyable enough, so idk.
    Still plugging away at the book, writing some new ones that may find their way into it or I’ll maybe save them for something else. Cool stuff. Been a productive summer.
    so long

  7. Corey Heiferman

    August 3, 2019 at 7:44 am

    This is my paltry contribution to today’s theme. Make of it what you will.


    @Sypha Greatly enjoyed your Jung link and comments in recent days. I just finished “Modern Man in Search of a Soul,” my first Jung book, might just go straight to the Red Book next. Do you have any other recommendations?

    Saw my first two Gregg Araki films last night: “Totally Fucked Up” and “The Doom Generation.” A real visionary, provided yet another proof that mockumentary about a friend circle and stylized love triangle road movie are forms that are just about always worth working in. I chuckled when the bad boy in “Totally Fucked Up” invokes your name.

    P.P.S. YouTube algorithm showing me the Harakiri Diat music channel has changed my life.


  8. Hey Dennis,

    Man i love Robbe-Grillet. Great post, nice morning read.

    I’ve been meaning to ask you this for awhile, are there any experimental dutch writers you dig? prose, poetry, whatever… anything come to mind?

    Be well

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