‘I am mad’

I am mad to be in love, I am not mad to be able to say so, I double my image: insane in my own eyes (I know my delirium), simply unreasonable in the eyes of someone else, to whom I quite sanely describe my madness: conscious of this madness, sustaining a discourse upon it.
   Every lover is mad, we are told. But can we imagine a madman in love? Never — I am entitled only to an impoverished, incomplete, metaphorical madness: love drives me nearly mad, but I do not communicate with the supernatural, there is nothing of the sacred within me; my madness, a mere irrationality, is dim, even invisible; besides, it is entirely recuperated by the culture: it frightens no one. (Yet it is in the amorous state that certain rational subjects suddenly realise that madness is very close at hand, quite possible: a madness in which love itself would founder.)
   For a hundred, years, (literary) madness has been thought to consist in Rimbaud’s Je est un autre: madness is an experience of depersonalisation. For me as an amorous subject, it is quite the contrary: it is becoming a subject, being unable to keep myself from doing so, which drives me mad. I am not someone else: that is what I realise with horror.

— Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (trans. R. Howard)


One response to “‘I am mad’

  1. ‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
    ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
    ‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
    ‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

    Alice in Wonderland

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