Medium 9781855756984

Love in a Time of Loneliness

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Noted Belgian psychoanalyst Paul Verhaeghe shows us what it is about sex that both keeps us moving and inhibits us at the same time. The first essay, "The Impossible Couple", is both a humorous and razor-sharp analysis of the contemporary relationship between man and woman. In the second essay, "Fleeing Fathers", the author demonstrates that today the Freudian Oedipus complex has disappeared, with a resulting shattering of classic gender roles. Post-modern morals are strange compared to previous morality, because they convey an obligation to enjoy. Things become even stranger when one finds that the expected enjoyment fails to come and, instead of that, we are faced with boredom, anxiety, and anger. The reasons for this are discussed in the third essay, "The Drive". Today, sexual abuse is omnipresent, with the male in the role of offender, women and children reduced to his victims. Paul Verhaeghe reconsiders the opposition between Eros and Thanatos as an opposition between two forms of sexual pleasure. The fact that this opposition is ever present in heterosexual love demonstrates that gender differentiation goes beyond temporal cultural forms.Accessibly written and provocatively argued, Love in a Time of Loneliness is a polemic whose very informality belies its serious intent. In these three fascinating essays, Professor Verhaeghe leaves the ordinary paths of thinking and sets out to discover what drives us in sex and love.

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I. The Impossible Couple

ePub

The Divorce Express (by Paul Danzinger)
Mom’s House, Dad’s House (by Ricci Isolina)
Ellen is Home Alone (by Francine Pascal)
Jessie’s Baby-Sitter (by Martin)
A Man for Mother (by Charles Nostlinger)
Mum, Why Don’t You Fall in Love? (by A. Steinwart)
Two Father, Two Mothers (by R. De Nennie)

Titles of recent children’s books (For
children aged 9-12)

Spring 1969: Peter Easy Rider Fonda speeds on his bike through the American landscape, looking for freedom, leaving Pleasantville far behind. The sky is the limit. Autumn 1997: the same Peter Fonda plays a fifty-year old Vietnam vet, taking care of his grandchildren—his son is in jail, his daughter-in-law is a junkie and one of his worries is keeping his granddaughter off the street (Wee’s Gold).

Between these two movies, a world has disappeared that can be epitomised by the ubiquitous use of quotation marks—the ‘lady of the house’ invited the husband of her ‘best friend’ to her flat ‘to have a drink’. Today, nothing means what it once meant. The perception of this cultural earthquake can be very different, ranging from an anxious plea for the return of law and order to a jubilant expectation of a new society. Independently of these moral interpretations, one thing is crystal clear to everyone: family life has changed drastically, the couple of yesterday has almost vanished and paradoxically (at least in most Western European countries) the main defenders of marriage are to be found in the gay community.

 

II. Fathers in Flight

ePub

The general, supra-temporal, strict superego is an
out-of-date analytical fiction.’
(Sloterdijk 1997)

7s it true that one must dive to the depths of the sea and
save one’s father to become a real boy?’
(Auster 1982)

In recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to the subject of bullying at school. A large-scale scientific research project on this subject conducted by several researchers over several months came to the following statistically supported, and therefore scientifically bona fide results: one, there is more bullying at school than at home; two, there is more bullying during breaks than during classes; three, children with a physical defect—obesity (fatty!), astigmatism (cross-eyes!)—are bullied more than others. Sometimes science is all too simple. This reminds me of an unforgettable quotation from the discussion in the Times Literary Supplement about The Encyclopaedia of Banality: ‘Moose are frequently found in large numbers in many parts of Canada.’

So what about bullying? Sometimes human sciences are an attempt to formulate things that have already been said more succinctly elsewhere. In her splendid autobiography, Doris Lessing makes the following remark in passing: ‘Children have always been bullies and will always continue to be bullies. The question is not so much what is wrong with our children; the question is why adults and teachers nowadays cannot handle it anymore’. Not being able to cope has now taken all sorts of excessive forms, and references are even made to bullied parents and bullied teachers at every level of the educational system.

 

III. The Drive

ePub

‘Then I was consumed by the happiness of unification as before and I fell into a bottomless depth, an experience for which there
are never any words’
(Hadewijch, Visions)

‘The horror, the horror’ (Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now)

Mario H., who is 27 years old, has been having a passionate affair with Sylvia D. for three years. One day he discovers that he is sharing the favours of his beloved with one of his best friends. The relationship changes: there are tears, threats, quarrels, promises, reconciliation. Mario believes and doubts, hopes and worries, flung between the heights of elation and the depths of despair. Again and again, he looks for signs and discovers reasons for his suspicions—a telephone call that is not answered, unexpected meetings at work, someone else’s hairs in the shower, the smell of a new perfume. He starts spying on Sylvia’s house and drives round her neighbourhood at night, checking the parked cars, looking for a light on in her room, searching for reassurance. It is a dubious assurance that he longs for. Everything that should put his mind at rest is ignored. The only kind of assurance which convinces him is the confirmation of his fearful suspicions. One evening when he sees his friend going into the apartment building, he feels these suspicions confirmed. He follows him, gets in with the key (a memory of better times), catches the couple red-handed and kills both of them. When the police find Mario with the two bodies a few hours later, he keeps saying that he loved Sylvia so much. At his trial, his lawyer talks about an irresistible urge.

 

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