Les derniers jours de Roland B
The star status does not protect against the hazards of life. Roland Barthes experienced this the hard way. At the end of the 1970s, he was internationally known and regarded as a thinking guru. A professor at the Collège de France, the author of best-sellers, he had a crowd of disciples. Newspapers and journals were fighting to publish him. Yet Barthes never got over the death of his mother, who disappeared when he was 61. He had lived with her, and his brother, his all life.
The last days of Roland Barthes brings the reader close to a well-known personality. It is the man, and not his oeuvre, that is put in the limelight. The man, this ‘miserable bundle of secrets’ as André Malraux put it. Such a close relationship to one’s mother can only be the result of an unusual family story. Why did such a great mind never manage to sever the umbilical cord and recover from the death of the woman who gave birth to him? And why did he literally let himself die after a banal road accident? 25 years after the death of Barthes, Hervé Algalarrondo went looking for those who were close to him. His meticulous inquiry testifies to the fragility of success. Barthes ‘had it all’, and yet to his friends he seemed like ‘living unhappiness’ itself. This affecting and sensitive account does not attempt to deconstruct an idol, but on the contrary, to give back its share of humanity to the man behind the star.
Hervé Algalarrondo is a journalist with the Nouvel Observateur.