The Informer :: A Lover’s Discourse

The Informer

informateur / informer

A friendly figure whose constant role, however, seems to be to wound the amorous subject by “innocently” furnishing commonplace information about the loved being, though the effect of this information
information is to disturb the subject’s image of that being. (Barthes 138-139)

1.         Gustave, Leon, and Richard form a group; Urbain, Claudius, Etienne, and Ursule, another; Abel, Gontran, Angele, and Hubert, still another (I borrow these names from Paludes <Gide>, which is the book of First Names). However, Leon happens to meet Urbain, who gets to know Angele, who knew Leon slightly anyway, etc. Thus is formed a constellation; each subject is called upon to enter into relations, one day or another, with the star remotest from him and to become involved with that particular star out of all the rest: everything ends by coinciding (this is the precise impulse of A la recherché du temps perdu <Proust>, which is, among other things, a tremendous intrigue, a farce network). Worldly friendship is epidemic: everyone catches it, like a disease. Now suppose that I release into this network a suffering subject eager to maintain with his other a pure, sealed space (consecrated, untouched); the network’s activities, its exchange of information, its interests and initiatives will be received as so many dangers. And in the center of this little society, at once an ethnological village and a boulevard comedy, parental structure and comic imbroglio, stands the informer, who busies himself and tells everyone everything.

Ingenuous or perverse, the Informer has a negative role. However anodyne the message he gives me (like a disease), he reduces my other to being merely another. I am of course obliged to listen to him (I cannot in worldly terms allow my vexation to be seen), but I strive to make my listening flat, indifferent, impervious.

2.         What I want is a little cosmos (with its own time, its own logic) inhabited only by “the two of us.” Everything from outside is a threat; either in the form of boredom (if I must live in a world from which the other is absent), or in the form of injury (if that world supplies me with an indiscreet discourse concerning the other). By furnishing me insignificant information about the one I love, the Informer discovers a secret for me. This secret is not a deep one, but comes from outside <Bunuel: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie>: it is the other’s “outside” which was hidden from me. The curtain rises the wrong way round-not on an intimate stage, but on the crowded theater. Whatever it tells me, the information is painful: a dull, ungrateful fragment of reality lands on me. For the lover’s delicacy, every fact has something aggressive about it: a bit of “science,” however commonplace, invades the Image-repertoire.

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