Preface by Richard Howard. Translated by Richard Miller. This is Barthes's scrupulous literary analysis of Balzac's short story "Sarrasine."
“Language was both a luxury and a discipline for Barthes. He pursued a subject through language until he cornered it, until its disguise fell away and it was revealed in a kind of epiphany. In his own way, he cleaned the face of Paris more thoroughly than Andre Malraux did when he ordered its buildings washed down to their original colors and arranged for lights to be played upon them. Musing on the kind of painting done by someone like Ingres, Barthes says that 'painters have left movement the amplified sign of the unstable . . . the solemn shudder of a pose impossible to fix in time . . . the motionless overvaluation of the ineffable.' This might also serve as his definition of classical French prose, and in order to escape its encroachment, Barthes prodded, squeezed and sniffed at language, like a great chef buying fruits and vegetables. He munched distinctions. His sentence rhythms were those of a man who talks with his hands.” —Anatole Broyard -