Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Lover's Discourse: Fragments” as Want to Read:
A Lover's Discourse: Fragments
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Lover's Discourse: Fragments

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  6,954 ratings  ·  507 reviews
A Lover's Discourse, at its 1978 publication, was revolutionary: Roland Barthes made unprecedented use of the tools of structuralism to explore the whimsical phenomenon of love. Rich with references ranging from Goethe's Werther to Winnicott, from Plato to Proust, from Baudelaire to Schubert, A Lover's Discourse artfully draws a portrait in which every reader will find ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published 1979 by Hill and Wang (first published 1977)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Lover's Discourse, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Clem Paulsen Yes, I seized on it.

I was told as a child you can't give water directly to a man dying of thirst, or they drown. Only little sips, patiently.

Yes, I seized on it.

I was told as a child you can't give water directly to a man dying of thirst, or they drown. Only little sips, patiently.

It's something I'll come back to. Lessons, a catechism. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,954 ratings  ·  507 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Lover's Discourse: Fragments
Steven Godin
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If there is any such thing as a good headache, then Roland Barthes has been successful in giving me one. This was a heavy (no, not the weight of the book, just heavy going, but in grandiose way!), irrefutable, and intense read, where, with the recreation of the lover's fevered consciousness he goes about deconstructing love, to write maybe the the most detailed, painstaking anatomy of desire that we are ever likely to see. Simply put, these are his thoughts on love, in the form of short essays, ...more
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A textual conversation between Roland Barthes (RB) and his friend X.:

RB: hey
X: hey Rolly, what's up
RB: went on a date last night, still reeling
X: oh? how'd it go?
RB: I don't know! he said I was adorable. "adorable"!
X: huh?
RB: why would he say that?
RB: like he couldn't think of anything better about me?
RB: god, what a muck of discourse!
X: right.
X: so what did you guys do anyway?
RB: that's the worst of it
RB: we went to dinner at l'Chateau B---
RB: can you believe it?
X: oh I heard that place is
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Love" seems to me something which is impossible to define, to grasp. Centuries of authors, of philosophers, have tried to do so in vain. There is always something left to be said. As in death, love is a topic of infinite discourse. As Tolstoy echoes in the mouth of Anna Karenina's titular heroine: "'I think... if there are as many minds as there are men, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.'" Love is infinite in it's permutations, and therefore cannot be defined. What ...more
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovesick
Recommended to Alan by: a lovesick
Fuck! Left in random Manhattan apt, then shipped to Haiti in aunt's luggage.


Double fuck! Lost it again on the subway with hundreds of notes.


Ok finished, after 6 months.

This book is a destroying and destroyed queer love poem masquerading half-assedly as theory. It is a poem with a mustache of theory. And it's pretty great for this. He sets it up as aspiring to decode a liminal site of discourse: the lover's discourse "is completely forsaken by the surrounding languages: ignored,
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you who philosophize over love and life's disharmony
Shelves: french-oeuvre
Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.

- This is a book you either read over a period of time, in spurts, in fragments as it is written, or you binge read in a couple of days, like I have. Each chapter is a definition, a philosophical tease, a shortened version of what could be a lecture or an erudite discussion on life and love; after all, Barthes made his living as
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is a classic in France, and it's probably Barthe's most popular work. It is absolutely brilliant, and may be well be the best analysis ever made of love, as seen from the beginning to the end of a relationship. It isn't a novel, it's not an essay either, nor a self-help book or a psychology study: it's just, as the title implies, fragments - fragments about the daily life of two people in love, people at various stage of love, and those fragments capture so perfectly, so intimately, so ...more
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction
I first read, and fell in love, with Roland Barthes at uni. Christ, I was still a virgin when I swooned over ALD for the first time. Now at the tail-end of a long relationship, the terrible beauty of Barthes' writing is quite effulgent.

I was reminded again of how great a novel (well, anti-novel...) ALD is when Jeffrey Eugenides paid such tender, bittersweet homage to it in 'The Marriage Plot'.

There is a scene where Madeleine is lying in bed reading The Book, eating peanut butter from the jar
Brian  Kubarycz
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
a lengthy set of scenarios evidencing our inability to speak the full truth of our loves as a result of the drive's inevitable detours through the defiles of the signifier. i have no idea why so many people find it erotic or expressive of their most intimate amorous sentiments. if anything, the book strikes a poignant note insofar as it amasses example after example of how the imaginary (our desires) and the symbolic (our words and concepts) inevitably fail to match one another. it occurs to me ...more
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Angus, Bennard

Originally posted here.


Admittedly, this is the kind of book that I will quickly chuck for its verbosity. Ive always thought books like this those that use hemorrhagic and florid words were written more for the purpose of exhibiting the authors unparalleled vocabulary more than anything. But for some reason, I hung on to this one. I stayed with it, and it stayed with me. Willingly.

Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers
This extensive study of love has disemboweled me in every sense of the word. From Goethe's Werther, Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, Nietzsche's The Gay Science, Plato's Symposium, Proust's In Search of Lost Time to countless conversations with friends together with personal experiences Barthes painstakingly dissects love beyond the philosophical, psychological, and emotional. A Lover's Discourse bridges the resolute interstices between the head and the heart; bothering gestures and impressions ...more
Alexis Hall
I have literally no idea how to begin to comment on this.

It is the most extraordinary work ... like ... ever. It's kind of an exploration of love ... of the affect of love on the mind ... via language. Or rather it seeks to liberate the meaning of love from the meaning of language about love.

Oh I cannot. I just cannot.

This probably makes it sound weird or inaccessible, but it's playful, expressive, fascinating, true.

Probably the most ... human writings on the subject of love I have ever read. Or
Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who must analyze as they swoon
Shelves: theory
The nerdiest book I reach for when falling in love or feeling heartbroken. A semiotic study of many moods and flavors of romantic love:


4. As a jealous man, I suffer four times over: because I am jealous, because I blame myself for being so, because I fear that my jealousy will wound the other, because I allow myself to be subject to a banality: I suffer from being excluded, from being aggressive, from being crazy, and from being common.

"The Uncertainty of Signs"
whether he seeks to
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: nearly everyone
my copy of this book has fallen apart from its binding before i even had the chance to reference it over and over. i read this with dry-yellow-glue dusting all over my lap. i wanted this to be a wordless review, or a capital letters review, something to simply state that this has OPENED MY EYES, that this is a dazzle of SIX STARS, that everyone should own this book in hardcover. has a book ever resonated with me so much? or "bothered" me so much? i am thankful that barthes has written us a ...more
I had one friend in particular-- I'm sure most of us have-- who, somewhere around his fifth drink, was vulnerable to going into the "why don't girls liiiiiiike me?" bitchfest, and, if interested in someone, "why doesn't (X) liiiiiike me as much as I liiiiiiike her?"

"Well, sir," I would have said had I read this book by then. "Roland might be a good guy for you to talk to. He'll tell you that if you're the sort of person who prevaricates over things and worries about the meanings of their words,
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a powerful book.

Of all the philosophical graffiti written on the backs of bathroom doors when I was in college, my favorite was a simple survey: Are you in love or in love with the idea of love? Most people chose the latter.

Barthes tackles the depth and breadth of the idea of love, in all its agony and ecstasy. There are meditations on waiting, on jealousy, on how love at first sight is like rape. Barthes tackles the ideas of Werther, Nietzsche, Freud, and sprinkles the etymology of
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The only thing for heartache. I tripped over 6-8 curbs reading this while I walked all over a new city and people bumped into me when I stopped in the middle of the street to underline things. I've been living in this book since I found it.
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
" What do I think of love? -As a matter of fact, I think nothing at all of love. I'd be glad to know what it is, but being inside, I see it in existence, not in essence. What I want to know (love) is the very substance I employ in order to speak (the lover's discourse) . Reflection is certainly permitted, but since this reflection is immediately absorbed in the mulling over of images, it never turns into
reflexivity: excluded from logic (which supposes languages exterior to each other), I cannot
Esther Espeland
Literally the hottest book Ive ever read. I am obsessed!! An exploration of love and the language we use to describe it. Thee most validating thing to read while I was losing my mind this month. I loved it. And Barthes is gay, tg. So beautifully written. I wrote down many quotes and read many passages aloud to myself. The figure on tenderness the tender gesture says: ask me anything that can put you body to sleep, but also do not forget that I desire youa little, lightly, without trying to seize ...more
Oct 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
When Roland Barthes looks at the language of love it becomes something almost sinister. Whenever I say "I Love You," it gives me a couple of moments of serious thinking!
Thomas Feng
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
"and in France they say, every day, love puts on a new face"  Joni Mitchell

as with so much great art, what I know I will remember from this book is not so much its "insights" about love (of which there are many... perhaps even a surfeit), but more that it proposes a new framework of which to think about love altogether. Barthes's observations and approach of close-reading provides us a new way to observe and close-read for ourselves.

I like to think this is part of what he means when he says
Lilith Frey
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone who sees the truth as it is
Kind of a bore.
Mél ☽
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Language lovers, People who could neither get nor get over their Charlotte.
Inexpressible Love

Écrire / to write

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

For as long as I can remember, few ever dared to define love, and those who did, have would always been met by failure.
Now, Roland Barthes, here, takes this sublime feeling, and dips it in the realm of language, so slowly, so elegantly, clothing its bare skin with written symbols, and breathing meaning into its
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
cacher / to hide
A deliberative figure: the amorous subject wonders, not whether he should declare his love to the loved being (this is not a figure of avowal), but to what degree he should conceal the turbulences of his passion: his desires, his distresses; in short, his excesses (in Racinian language: his fureur).

Yet to hide a passion totally (or even to hide, more simply, its excess) is inconceivable: not because the human subject is too weak, but because passion is in essence made to be seen:
Alor Deng
Uffffff. Maybe the most quotable book I've ever read. The number of times I had to pause and ponder is innumerable. It highlights, totally, the state of the lover with regard to the beloved and how melancholy and joy are closely linked in love. This is the work of genius.

"Am I in love? --yes, since I am waiting. The other one never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn't wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game. Whatever I do, I
Roman Clodia
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is perhaps Barthes at his most playful as he anatomises the textuality of love. Love, he asserts, is articulated, expressed and performed via a series of 'codes' or an 'image repertoire' - and his analysis takes in not just the individual and the personal (noted by initials in the margins) but the universal and general as depicted in narratives from Plato to Lacan via Goethe, Balzac and Proust, to name just a few.

Despite the mischievous postmoderness, this is also very good on the cruel
May 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Barthes never attempts to give us a uniform narrative about love. Instead he provides us with fragments--some from literature, others his own thought--from a quite uncommon perspective, that of a lover when alone; not of an exchage between lovers, a shared love. I can't say the book teaches anything, but it certainly leads the reader to look at the subject of love in an entirely different way.
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, europa
I had never read anything by Barthes, Maybe this is not the best example, I have more recommendations to look for now, but I love the fact that he wrote a book like this.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A shattered discourse of love by a lover living the shattering postmodern condition!
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you are in love, read this book. If you are not, read it as well. If you have ever loved, you will love it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
man 1 63 Feb 11, 2009 06:36AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos
  • Eros the Bittersweet
  • Decreation
  • Against Interpretation and Other Essays
  • In Praise of Love
  • I Remain in Darkness
  • El entusiasmo: Precariedad y trabajo creativo en la era digital
  • Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings
  • Erotism: Death and Sensuality
  • La sal
  • Bluets
  • Inner Experience
  • La hermana menor: Un retrato de Silvina Ocampo
  • Something Bright, Then Holes
  • If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
  • Cinema 2: The Time-Image
  • Letters to a Young Poet
  • K
See similar books…
Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, design theory, anthropology, and post-structuralism.

Articles featuring this book

New Yorker and Onion writer Blythe Roberson's new book How to Date Men When You Hate Men is a comedic philosophy book about what it means to ...
52 likes · 43 comments
“Am I in love? --yes, since I am waiting. The other one never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn't wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game. Whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover's fatal identity is precisely this: I am the one who waits.” 710 likes
“You see the first thing we love is a scene. For love at first sight requires the very sign of its suddenness; and of all things, it is the scene which seems to be seen best for the first time: a curtain parts and what had not yet ever been seen is devoured by the eyes: the scene consecrates the object I am going to love. The context is the constellation of elements, harmoniously arranged that encompass the experience of the amorous subject...

Love at first sight is always spoken in the past tense. The scene is perfectly adapted to this temporal phenomenon: distinct, abrupt, framed, it is already a memory (the nature of a photograph is not to represent but to memorialize)... this scene has all the magnificence of an accident: I cannot get over having had this good fortune: to meet what matches my desire.

The gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject's dream of total union with the loved being: The longing for consummation with the other... In this moment, everything is suspended: time, law, prohibition: nothing is exhausted, nothing is wanted: all desires are abolished, for they seem definitively fulfilled... A moment of affirmation; for a certain time, though a finite one, a deranged interval, something has been successful: I have been fulfilled (all my desires abolished by the plenitude of their satisfaction).”
More quotes…