Our failures are as comical as they are painful. (PASCAL BRUCKNER)

Our failures are as comical as they are painful. (PASCAL BRUCKNER)

In 1784, Kant referred to the ‘unsociable sociability’ of men that leads them to enter into society even though they find the company of others repugnant.

Chemists, Goethe remarked, used to be called ‘separators’ or analysts. They took the elements apart in order to form new ones, and their science, which was then in full flight, served Goethe as a model in his novel Elective Affinities (1809), in which he described human relations as subject to the forces of magnetic attraction and repulsion.

But could he foresee the extraordinary tempest to which the liberation of the passions was about to give rise in Europe?

Besides, it’s better to laugh about it; our failures are as comical as they are painful.

In our great metropolises, our manners resemble a permanent vaudeville show: dramatic reversals, poignant aches, sombre ruminations, catfights, hasty couplings followed by new heartbreaks.

In certain classes in urban centres, the children of un-divorced parents can be counted on the fingers of one hand, while other children, carrying a perpetually packed bag, move back and forth between father and mother in accord with the agreements made.

Depending on our mood, we can see in this a landscape in ruins or testimony to a great refinement.

The rapid combustion of our libidos and our hearts explains the infernal round of couples that are formed and undone, not to mention the mimetic separations that lead whole groups to split up by imitation.

With this epidemic of break-ups and hook-ups, we enter into the comedy of repetition reproduced in the millions of copies, as if an invisible choreographer were commanding everyone to move from wonder to disappointment and back again.

We seek each other and at the same time try to flee, we alternate infatuation and cooling off, and celibacy is proliferating in large cities in proportion to population density and the temptations on offer.

Thus in our part of the world, especially among young urban adults, more and more people of all ages and conditions are waiting for someone to turn up in France, an immense reserve army of hearts, some fourteen million ‘singles’.

That may be the fatal equation of our time: a crossing of futility with intransigence. Our taste for the absolute also makes us fickle, because we expect every-thing from love, which has become the secular form of Salvation.





Has Marriage for Love Failed
Pascal Bruckner



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