The stories mothers could tell

Roland Barthes once compared the fruits of his literary and philosophical researches to the shiny pebbles on the beach which, as a boy, he would gather up and present proudly to his mother. Remaining devoted to his mother, living with her up to her death and surviving her by only three years, Barthes suggested that a male writer's entire motivation was bound up with the desire to please their mother. Pebbles famously soon lose their shine, of course, and one can only wonder what the old lady made of his sibylline works of literary theory.

One wonders, also, what Barthes would have made of Michel Houellebecq's relationship with his mum, or what offerings the author of Atomised would have scoured the beach for to present to his "old slut of a mother" who, as he put it in Atomised, decided the "the burden of caring for a small child" didn't suit her plans.

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