On this, the Barthes of September (so
I am left with no choice but to post an excerpt. But which one? Something
apropos to this afternoon’s mood (any respite from Why does this over-warm
office where I sit working on my dissertation smell like shit? It’s
94F–record-setting heat in CNY. A dead squirrel in the eaves? I refuse to
climb in the small, hot, unlit nooks to inspect them. Tactic: wait it out–in
the office, curious, resting on hope alone that the unbearable stink resolves itself).
RB (from RB) on "My Head is Confused":
On a certain kind of work, on a certain kind of subject (usually the ones
dissertations are made of), on a certain day of life itself, he would like
to be able to post as a motto the old-wives’ remark: My head is confused
(let us imagine a language in which the set of grammatical categories would
sometimes force the subject to speak in the aspect of an old woman).
And yet: at the level of his body, his head never gets confused.
It is a curse: no value, lost, secondary state: always consciousness: drugs
excluded, yet he dreams of them: dreams of being able to intoxicate himself
(instead of getting sick right away); anticipating from a surgical operation
for at least once in his life an absence, which was denied him for a
general anesthesia; recovering every morning, upon waking, a head swimming a
little, but whose interior remains fixed (sometimes, falling to sleep with
something worrying me, upon first waking it has disappeared; a white minute,
miraculously stripped of meaning; but the worry rushes upon me, like a bird
of prey, and I find myself altogether back where I was, just as I was the
Sometimes he feels like letting all this language rest–this language
which is in his head, in his work, in other people, as if language itself
were an exhausted limb of the human body; it seems to him that if he could
take a rest from language, he could just rest altogether, dismissing all
crises, echoes, exaltations, injuries, reasonings, etc. He sees language in
the figure of an exhausted old woman (something like an antique cleaning
woman with worn hands) who sighs for a certain retirement…. (176)
Why not this? While there is no relief from the odor (decomposing flesh, I am sure of it),
there is a little relief for my head. It is a couple of pages less
confused than it was yesterday.