Pascal Bruckner’s Paradoxes
The Paradox of Love constitutes the central and most ambitious of three recent works by Pascal Bruckner devoted to the subject of love in its many and varied manifestations in contemporary European and Western culture. The other two works are a short novel published in 2007 titled Mon petit mari (My Little Husband), a contemporary fable dealing with the pitfalls of marriage and parenthood, and a brief essay published in 2010, Le mariage d’amour a-t-il échoué? (Has the Marriage of Love Failed?).
In writing about love, Bruckner is of course taking on a vast subject that has been exhaustively discussed and analyzed by writers from all over the world for millennia. In France and in francophone literary culture more generally, Bruckner is following in a long tradition that includes the greatest philosophers, novelists, and moralistes, from La Rochefoucauld, Madame de Lafayette, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Stendhal and Flaubert and, more recently, Denis de Rougemont, René Girard, Tzvetan Todorov, and Alain Badiou, among others. Readers of The Paradox of Love will easily recognize the influence of Denis de Rougemont in particular, whose Love in the Western World remains one of the greatest treatises on love ever written. They will also recognize the influence of René Girard, whose concepts of mimetic desire and scapegoating have helped shape