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Houellebecq on Love

[1]552 words

Translated by Guillaume Durocher

Translator’s Note: I discovered these reflections nestled between some pornographic scenes in Michel Houellebecq’s recently published novel, Sérotonine (Paris: Flammarion, 2019), pp. 70-72.

It is perhaps necessary at this point to provide a few clarifications on love, largely aimed at women, because women don’t really understand what love is for men. They are constantly disconcerted by men’s attitude and behaviors, and sometimes come to the mistaken conclusion that they are incapable of love. Women rarely see that this same word, love, refers to two radically different realities for men and women.

In woman, love is a power – a generative, tectonic power. Love manifests itself in woman as one of the most imposing and spectacular natural phenomena that nature can offer us. It is feared. It is a creative power of the same order as an earthquake or climactic disasters. It is at the origin of another ecosystem, of another environment, of another universe. By her love, woman creates a new world. Small, isolated beings splash around in an uncertain existence, and here is woman, creating the necessary conditions for the existence of a couple, a new social, emotional, and genetic unit, whose vocation is indeed to eliminate all trace of the preexisting individuals. This new entity is already perfect in its essence, as Plato had perceived. It can sometimes develop into a family, but that is almost a detail, contrary to what Schopenhauer thought. Woman, in any case, dedicates herself entirely to this task, she harms herself in the effort. She dedicates herself body and soul, as we say, and incidentally, she doesn’t really distinguish between them, the distinction between body and soul being for her inconsequential masculine chicanery.

Man, for his part, is more reserved. He admires and respects this emotional upheaval without fully understanding it. It seems to him a bit strange to make such a fuss. But little by little, he is transformed. Little by little, he is sucked into the vortex of passion and pleasure created by woman. To be precise, he recognizes woman’s will, her unconditional and pure will, and he understands that this will – even if the homage of frequent and preferably daily vaginal penetrations is demanded by the woman, because they are the usual condition for its manifestation – is in itself an absolutely good will. The phallus, the core of his being, changes in status because it also becomes a necessary condition for the possibility of love’s manifestation. Man has scarcely any other means. And by this strange detour, the phallus’ happiness becomes a goal in itself for woman, a goal which does not tolerate restrictions in the means used. Little by little, the immense pleasure woman gives man modifies him. He comes to recognize and admire it. His vision of the world is transformed. In a way which he does not expect, he accedes to the Kantian dimension of respect. And, little by little, he looks upon the world in a different way. Life without woman (and even, precisely, life without this woman who gives him so much pleasure) becomes genuinely impossible, like the caricature of a life. At that point, man begins to truly love. Love in man is then an end, a completion, and not, as in woman, a beginning, a birth. That is how we should consider these things.