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ART, Barthes Roland, English, Literature, Philosophy

Waiting – Roland Barthes / Edward Hopper

A Woman in the Sun 1961

A Woman in the Sun 1961

attente / waiting

Tumult of anxiety provoked by waiting for the loved being, subject to trivial delays (rendezvous, letters, telephone calls, returns)

I. I am waiting for an arrival, a return, a promised sign. This can be futile, or immensely pathetic: in Erwantung (Waiting), a woman waits for her lover, at night, in the forest; I am waiting for no more than a telephone call, but the anxiety is the same. Everything is solemn: I have no sense of proportions.

2. There is a scenography of waiting: I organize it, manipulate it, cut out a portion of time in which I shall mime the loss of the loved object and provoke all the effects of a minor mourning. This is then acted out as a play.

The selling represents the interior of a cafe; we have a rendezvous, I am waiting. In the Prologue, the sole actor of the play (and with reason). I discern and indicate the other’s delay; this delay is as yet only a mathematical, computable entity (I look at my watch scveral times); the Prologue ends with a brainstorm: I decide to “take it badly,” I release the anxicty of waiting. Act I now begins; it is occupied by suppositions: was there a misunderstanding as to the time, the place? I try to recall the moment when the rendezvous was made, the details which were supplied. What is to be done (anxiety of behavior)?

Try another cafe? Telephone? But if the other comes during these absences? Not seeing me, the other might leave, etc.

Act 1I is the act of anger; I address violent reproaches to the absent one: “All the same, he (she) could have .. . ”

“He (she) knows perfectly well .. . ” Oh, if she (he) could be here, so that I could reproach her (him) for not being here! In Act In, I attain to (I obtain?) anxiety in the pure state: the anxiety of abandonment; I have just shifted in a second from absence to death; the other is as if dead: explosion of grief: I am internally livid. That is the play; it can be shortened by the other’s arrival; if the other arrives in Act I, the greeting is calm; if the other arrives in Act 11, there is a “scene”; if in Act II, there is recognition, the action of grace: I breathe deeply, like Pelleas emerging from the underground chambers and rediscovering life, the odor of roses.

(The anxiety of waiting is not continuously violent; it has its matte moments; I am waiting, and everything around my waiting is stricken with unreality: in this cafe, I look at the others who come in, chat, joke, read calmly: they are not waiting.)

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3. Waiting is an enchantment: I have received orders not to move. Waiting for a telephone call is thereby woven out of tiny unavowable interdictions to infinity: I forbid myself to leave the room, to go to the toilet, even to telephone (to keep the line from being busy); I suffer torments if someone else telephones me (for the same reason); I madden myself by the thought that at a certain (imminent) hour I shall have to leave, thereby running the risk of missing the healing call, the return of  Mother. All these diversions which solicit me are so many wasted moments for waiting, so many impurities of anxiety.
For the anxiety of waiting. in its pure state, requires that I be sitting in a chair within reach of the telephone, wit ho ut doing anything.

4. The being I am waiting for is not real. Like the mother’s breast for the infant, “I create and re-create it over and over, starting from my capacity to love, starting from my need for it”: the other comes here where 1 am waiting, here where I have already created him/ her. And if the other does not come, I hallucinate the other: waiting is a delirium.

The telephone again: each time it rings, I snatch up the receiver, 1 think it will be the loved being who is calling me (since that being should call me); a little more effort and I “recognize” the other’s voice, e, I engage in the dialogue, to the point where I lash out furiously against the importunate outsider who wakens me from my delirium. In the cafe, anyone who comes in, bearing the faintest resemblance, is thereupon, in a first impulse, reorganized.

And, long after the amorous relation is allayed, 1 keep the habit of hallucinating the being 1 have loved: sometimes 1am still in anxiety over a telephone call that is late, and no matter who is on the line, I imagine 1 recognize the voice I once loved: I am an amputee who still feels pain in his missing leg.


5. “Am 1 in love? – Yes, since I’m waiting.” The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the

one who doesn’t wail; I try 10 busy myself elsewhere, to arrive latc; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, r find myself there, with noth ing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The love r’s fatal iden tity is precise ly: am one who wails.


(In transference, one always wa its-at the doctor’s, the professor’s, the analyst’s. Further, if I am wailing at a establish aggressive whose indifference unmasks and irritates my subjection ; so

that one miglll say that wherever there is waiting there is transference: r depend on a presence which is shared and requires time 10 be bestowed-as if were a quest ion of lowering my desi re, lessening my need. someorle

the constant prerog;nive of all power, ‘·age·old pas·time humanity.”)

6. A mandarin fell in love with a courtesan. “I shall be yours,” she told him, “when you have spent a hundred nights waiting for me, sitting on a stool, in my garden, beneath my window.” But on the ninety-ninth night, the mandarin stood up, put his stool under his arm, and went away.

E.B.: Letter.

Roland Barthes: “Fragments d’un discours amoureux”

Edward Hopper Art


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