["Roland Barthes," Cahiers du Cinéma 311 (1980), ]
The recent pages about a photograph of his mother, about his "little girl,"1 perhaps constituted for the first time the words of a man no longer driven by anything except the mystery of profundity and the origin of an enigma, the words of a man no longer made up to please anyone. Is death the beginning of such asecret? I retain an undespairing affection for this man, no doubt because of that calm voice behind which the very young mastery of a child could be heard, like an object carried in the voice. This man had, and his speech had, a child's knowledge about all knowledge. That's at the origin of his science and it's precisely something that's incapable of manufacturing power (a subjectivity forced intomaking its origin a possibility through the objects of our human world), and something that kept the slightest vulgarity at bay. His final writings are, for me, a miracle of the simplest thought and in them there's an art keeping up what must be described as proper appearances. That's to say, the unique content that used to give us forms as lovable objects. This was always just the possibility ofdiscussing the most immediate objects of our culture and what it is about them that opens up (or, strictly speaking, invents) the emotional body. So I learned something from this man; it's to him that I owe the decision to write (to publish). When I was twenty he showed me that work is a technique, and that in this "philosophical" age we should break it down into the simplest of gestures and objectsSmith/Schefer VI (Roland Barthes)
since they're what guard, as it were, the mystery of that particular annulment of time during which our whole written language ceases to be obviously destined for anyone (this is the only way I can summarize what wasn't really a teaching: paradoxically, it was by another route that I learnt how to work, choose paper, pens and pencils, and to respectthat time which chains itself to objects and around which the essential part of my life began to revolve). Speaking with this man, I learnt no philosophy or literary history, etc.--as to those, in my way I knew more than he did. But I did learn how all of that could live within me, belong to me, and that somehow a second centre of gravity had already been born, awaiting the body (being able tocoincide with the origin of the written word) which would never surround it, reify it, or make it up. Already it was a matter of writing as the condition of living under the the double commandment of a floating truth and a mysterious urgency; a matter of vainly fulfilling the mad programme of such a writing body, like a mass of ideograms that could never be born and whose first point of appearance,floating outside of everything, would only ever be remains. I learnt that there's no master, that solitude is perhaps the very milieu of work, not its end, nor its destiny, nor its truth. And that there exists something like a true perspective on everything we do--that perspective is perhaps just the hope of reaching a still unimaginable human being, that is, something that really lives outside us oroutside our passions. I probably don't know the content of my friend's books (books haven't had content for me for a while now), but their particular ideational matter still strikes me. I didn't learn from them any technique, a look, or a manner, but they did send me back to the urgency of writing my own work--that is, back to the real disinheritance of any subjectivity and that can't bedelivered up to anyone else by way of the very object which exceeds all of its givens. Even in its very poverty, in its tawdry results, this isn't solitary work: it's situated at the very heart of the species but right where there's no eye
Smith/Schefer VI (Roland Barthes)
to see either this point where the written is born or whatever still resembles a human being there. And yet it's there...