Mourning Diary

Afternoon with Michel, sorting maman’s belongings.

Began the day by looking at her photographs.

A cruel mourning begins again (but had never ended).

To begin again without resting. Sisyphus.

Around 6 p.m.: the apartment is warm, clean, well-lit, pleasant. I make it that way, energetically, devotedly (enjoying it bitterly): henceforth and forever I am my own mother.

Disappointment of various places and trips. Not really comfortable anywhere. Very soon, this cry: I want to go back! (but where? since she is no longer anywhere, who was once where I could go back). I am seeking my place. Sitio.

Don't say mourning. It's too psychoanalytic. I'm not mourning. I'm suffering.

Dreamed of maman again. She was telling me—O cruelty!—that I didn’t really love her. But I took it calmly, because I was so sure it wasn’t true.

The idea that death would be a kind of sleep. But it would be horrible if we had to dream eternally.

(And this morning, her birthday. I always gave her a rose. Bought two at the little market of Mers Sultan and put them on my desk)

[Emilio’s dinner with FM Banier]

Gradually I abandon the conversation (suffering because the others might suppose I am doing so for reasons of contempt.) FMB (supported by Youssef) embodies a strong (and ingenious) system of values, codes, seductions, styles; but even as the system gains in consistency, I feel excluded from it. And little by little I cease struggling, I withdraw, without concern for how I appear to the others. Thus it begins by an initially slight disaffection for sociability which becomes quite radical. As it develops, it gradually combines with a hostalgia for what remains living for me: maman. And ultimately I fall into an abyss of suffering.

Everyone is “extremely nice”—and yet I feel entirely alone. (“Abandonitis”).

Everything began all over again immediately: arrival of manuscripts, requests, people’s stories, each person mercilessly pushing ahead his own little demand (for love, for gratitude): No sooner has she departed than the world deafens me with its continuance.

Grim evening at Gabès (windy, black clouds, hideous bungalows, “folklore” performance in the Hotel Chems bar): I can no longer take refuge in my thoughts: neither in Paris nor traveling. No escape.

I am either lacerated or ill at ease and occasionally subject to gusts of life.

I ask for nothing but to live in my suffering.

I have not a desire but a need for solitude.

I live in my suffering and that makes me happy.

Anything that keeps me from living in my suffering is unbearable to me.

In the sentence “She’s no longer suffering,” to what, to whom does “she” refer? What does that present tense mean?

I transform "Work" in its analytic meaning (the Work of Mourning, the Dream-Work) into the real "Work" - of writing.)

the "Work" by which (it is said) we emerge from the great crises (love, grief) cannot be liquidated hastily: for me, it is accomplished only in and by writing.

I waver—in the dark—between the observation (but is it entirely accurate?) that I’m unhappy only by moments, by jerks and surges, sporadically, even if such spasms are close together—and the conviction that deep down, in actual fact, I am continually, all the time, unhappy since maman’s death.

Like love, mourning affects the world—and the worldly—with unreality, with importunity. I resist the world, I suffer from what it demands of me, from its demands. The world increases my sadness, my dryness, my confusion, my irritation, etc. The world depresses me.

Maman’s death: perhaps it is the one thing in my life that I have not responded to neurotically. My grief has not been hysterical, scarcely visible to others (perhaps because the notion of “theatralizing” my mother’s death would have been intolerable); and doubtless, more hysterically parading my depression, driving everyone away, ceasing to live socially, I would have been less unhappy. And I see that the non-neurotic is not good, not the right thing at all.

Miseries of a birth.

Mourning. At the death of the loved being, acute phase of narcissism: one emerges from sickness, from servitude. Then, gradually, freedom takes on a leaden hue, desolation settles in, narcissism gives way to a sad egoism, an absence of generosity.

Suffering is a form of egoism.

I speak only of myself. I am not talking about her, saying what she was, making an overwhelming portrait (like the one Gide made of Madeleine).

(Yet: everything is true: the sweetness, the energy, the nobility, the kindness.)


How would I know I don’t suffer any more, if I’m dead?

The grim
egoism (egotism)
of mourning
of suffering

There is a time when death is an event, an ad-venture, and as such mobilizes, interests, activates, tetanizes. And then one day it is no longer an event, it is another duration, compressed, insignificant, not narrated, grim, without recourse: true mourning not susceptible to any narrative dialectic.

To whom can I put this question (with any hopes of an answer)? Does being able to live without someone you loved mean you loved her less than you thought... ?

We don’t forget, but something vacant settles in us.

What affects me most powerfully: mourning in layers—a kind of sclerosis.

[Which means: no depth. Layers of surface—or rather, each layer: a totality. Units]


From the terrace of the Flore, I see a woman sitting on the windowsill of the bookstore La Hune; she is holding a glass in one hand, apparently bored; the whole room behind her is filled with men, their backs to me. A cocktail party.

May cocktails. A sad, depressing sensation of a seasonal and social stereotype. What comes to my mind is that maman is no longer here and life, stupid life, continues.

—You have never known a Woman’s body!

—I have known the body of my mother, sick and then dying.