“All the delights of the earth” :: A Lover’s Discourse

“All the delights of the earth”

comblement / fulfillment

The subject insistently posits the desire and the possibility of a complete satisfaction of the desire implicated in the amorous relation and of a perfect and virtually eternal success of this relation: paradisiac image of the Sovereign Good, to given and to be received.

  1. “Now, take all the delights of the earth, melt them into one single delight, and cast it entire into a single man — all this will be as nothing to the delight of which I speak” <Ruysbroeck>. Thus fulfillment is a precipitation: something is condensed, streams over me, strikes me like a lightning bolt. What is it which fills me in this fashion? A totality? No. Something that, starting from totality, actually exceeds it: a totality without remainder, a summa without exception, a site with nothing adjacent (“my soul is not only filled, but runs over” <Ruysbroeck>). I fulfill (I am fulfilled), I accumulate, but I do not abide by the level of lack; I produce an excess, and it is in this excess that the fulfillment occurs (the excessive is the realm, the system of the Image-repertoire: once I am no longer within the excessive, I feel frustrated; for me, enough means not enough): at last I know that state in which “delight exceeds the possibilities envisioned by desire.” A miracle: leaving all “satisfaction” behind, neither satiated nor drunk (saoul, in French), I pass beyond the limits of satiety <ETYMOLOGY: Satis (enough), in both “satisfaction” and “saoul” (satullus).>, and instead of finding disgust, nausea or even drunkenness, I discover . . . Coincedence. Excess has led me to proportion; I adhere to the image, our proportions are the same: exactitude, accuracy, music: I am through with not enough. Henceforth I live in the definitive assumption of the Image-repertoire, its triumph.
    Fulfillments: they are not spoken — so that, eroneously, the amorous relation seems reduced to a long complaint. This is because, if it is inconsistent to express suffering badly, on the other hand, with regard to happiness, it would seem culpable to spoil its expression: the ego discourses only when it is hurt; when I am fulfilled or remember having been so, language seems pusillanimous: I am transported, beyond language, i.e., beyond the mediocre, beyond the general: “There occurs an encounter which is intolerable, on account of the joy within it, and sometimes man is thereby reduced to nothing; this is what I call the transport. The transport is the joy of which one cannot speak” <Ruysbroeck>.
  2. In reality, it is unimportant that I have no likelihood of being really fulfilled (I am quite willing for this to be the case). Only the will to fulfillment shines, indestructible, before me. By this will, I well up: I form within myself the utopia of a subject free from repression: I am this subject already. This subject is libertarian: to believe in the Sovereign Good is as insane as to believe in the Sovereign Evil <Novalis>: Heinrich von Ofterdingen is of the same philosophical stuff as Sade’s Juliette.(Fulfillment means an abolition of inheritances:  “. . . Joy has no need of heirs or of children — Joy wants itself, wants eternity, the repetition of the same things, wants everything to remain eternally the same” <Nietzsche>. The fulfilled lover has no need to write, to transmit, to reproduce.)

[From A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard]

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