Warning, this book is a mess. The pond of our peaceful lives. In “À la folie, passionatement” (ed. Equateurs), the young pop philosopher Marianne Chaillan delivers a vigorous defense of love-passion, with its intense joys but also its acute sufferings. However, according to a 2020 Harris Interactive poll, only 21% of French people say that their love life is “a priority”, compared to 39% who prioritize family life and 34% their financial situation. And when we evoke the idea of love, 42% think of the idea of ”trust”, 41% of that of “complicity”, but only 20% mention “passion” and 20% “Romanticism”. Suffice to say that Marianne Chaillan’s book is out of place in the current cautious atmosphere, and that’s good. A sign that our era, which is said to be puritanical, is about to change? Meeting with a woman who hates warmth.
SHE. Why did you write this book?
MARIANNE CHAILLAN. He imposed himself on me. I have always been someone who is quite passionate in love. In high school, my classmates nicknamed me Anna Karenina! – although I hope that I will not have the same tragic end as her! [Rires.] But I couldn’t find books and thinkers that justified my conduct. I, who am a professor of philosophy, could not seek answers from philosophers. These have always condemned amorous passion. They see in it a destructive power, a force that makes us passive, that makes us lose our minds. But after all, Lucretius, Kant, Schopenhauer or Kierkegaard were celibates, lonely ascetics, old bachelors. Do we really have to ask them how to go about living and loving?
SHE. Your book goes against the times. Our age is rather obsessed with personal development, balance, zenitude, and not really with the emotional roller coaster that characterizes passion…
CM Yes, my book is a continuation of my previous work, “Where is happiness? (Equateurs ed.), which criticized personal development. I am not convinced by this search for well-being, this aspiration for peace and fulfillment that marks our time. As laudable as these states are, they seem to me impossible to attain. Of course, I understand that one might want to protect oneself from amorous passion, this affect that ravages everything in its path. Moreover, I linger in my book on “Belle du Seigneur”, Albert Cohen’s novel, which, we tend to forget, was written to divert us from passionate love and make us prefer marital love. I am not a care bear. I don’t ignore the terrible things that desire can have. I am aware that it can be ephemeral, that it generates suffering and that it creates in us a lack of the other who never manages to be completely satiated.
“To refuse the incandescence of feelings is to bury oneself alive. »
SHE. But then why defend him?
CM Because, for me, amorous desire is the other name of life. “To love you is to live,” said Victor Hugo to Juliette Drouet. And on the contrary, to refuse this incandescence of feelings amounts to burying oneself alive. None of the reproaches addressed to passionate love seem to me really valid. Blaming it for its ephemeral character is tantamount to denying the very essence of life, where everything is fleeting, our projects, our relationships. Similarly, to accuse him of causing suffering is to misunderstand the nature of existence, where joy and pain are mixed, where they cannot exist without each other, as Albert Camus clearly demonstrates in “L’ Reverse and the Place”. Finally, to say that an exalted sentimental relationship does not satisfy, that we are always in lack of the other, does not seem more convincing to me. Because incompleteness is an intrinsic dimension of the human condition. We must stop condemning passion. Yes, it is ephemeral, painful, never totally satisfying, but how alive does it feel!
SHE. It’s hard, what you’re asking us here…
CM I advocate a certain lucidity and a certain requirement. We must accept uncertainty in love as an essential dimension of life. We have no other choice. Affective life is marked by impermanence. This implies living in fact in a certain tension, in the refusal of the comfort that a conjugal relationship that purrs can give. Personally, I try not to fall into this temptation that inhabits every lover: to ask the other for an eternal commitment. It is not possible. As Jean-Paul Sartre says, the lover demands an oath from the other: “Tell me that you will always love me. But at the same time, if the other told him so that he would believe it, that would extinguish the desire. The whole paradox of love is to want to possess freedom. Which cannot be considered.
SHE. Some feminists have criticized this notion of “love-passion”. For example, feminicides have long been referred to as “crimes of passion”. What do you think ?
CM I agree with this review. Thus, when Don José kills Carmen, in Bizet’s opera, it is a feminicide, even if he speaks of the “passion” he feels. But that’s not my definition of passion. For me, this consists in loving powerfully, intensely, but without wanting to possess the other, without believing that the relationship will be eternal. Don José and all the authors of feminicide have a misunderstanding of the essence of life and desire. They think that the other belongs to them, that the relationship can last forever, be reified. It is a total illusion, which leads to violence. I obviously condemn this attitude.
“The whole paradox of love is to want to possess freedom. »
SHE. Feminists like Mona Chollet have also criticized passionate romance novels written by men, because women are simply an object on which the man projects many things. There would be no real encounter…
CM This type of criticism was already found in the poet and philosopher Lucretius, in the 1st century BC. This explains that the lover reifies the object of his desire, that he fantasizes about it, but does not know it. And that when love eventually fades, coming back to reality can be difficult. Indeed, once the blindness has passed, we risk having a bad surprise when we discover who the loved one really is. It was Swann, in “A la recherche du temps perdu”, by Proust, who declared about Odette: “To say that I wasted years of my life for a woman who was not my type. Of course, there is always this risk in passionate love. But shouldn’t you take it? Real love, where you really know the other, is often born of a passionate relationship. This is a first step. We have thus gone from “love of concupiscence” to “love of benevolence”, as Descartes would say.
SHE. You are a high school philosophy teacher. How do you think your book might interest your students?
CM. This book can destroy an illusion, that of “They lived happily and had many children”. I see that many young girls today think that life is going to be a pretty quiet road, as long as we do each step correctly: finding a lover, getting into a relationship, having children, etc. But experience shows us that this is not the case. My book can also help all those who feel guilty and think that their life is a failure because they are not in a relationship, because they are divorced, because they have trouble finding a partner, etc. I do not agree. I even dispute the term “failure in love”. The necessary becoming of the love story is not necessarily a long relationship. Let’s stop with this cliche.
“Madly, passionately”, by Marianne Chaillan (ed. Equateurs)