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Gorz’s Endless Love for His Wife

Posted December. 01, 2007 04:53,   


On September 24, 2007, the media all over the world reported the death of a French philosopher. The 84-year-old philosopher and his wife, who had suffered from an incurable disease for 24 years, were discovered dead lying side by side at their country home in a suburban area of Paris. It is reported that they had committed suicide.

He was André Gorz (1923-2007), acclaimed by Jean Paul Sartre as “the greatest intellectual with keen sense in Europe.” Though he is not well known in Korea, he deserves our attention regarding his personal life.

He was born in Vienna, Austria. When he was 16 years old, he went to Lausanne in Switzerland to avoid enlisting in the German army. Since he met Sartre in 1946, he delved into existentialism and phenomenology. In the 1950s, he took an active role as a journalist, and, in the 1960s, as a main theorist in the New Left movement, inspiring “May 1968,” a series of protests and strikes that caused the De Gaulle government to collapse in France. In the 1970s, he departed from Marxism and became a trailblazer in green politics and eco politics.

The newly released book, “A Letter to D” (its original title is “Lettre à D : Histoire d`un amour”) was written by Gorz in the spring of 2006, a year before his death. Realizing he had never written for his wife though he was a prolific writer, he wrote her a long letter which was eventually published as a book in Paris in 2006. It sold well and was acclaimed by many as a “beautiful love story people haven’t read for a long time.”

The Korean translated version does not contain the translator’s postscript and the letter of recommendation. At the request of Galilee, the original French publisher, they are separately bound in order to allow Gorz’s letter to remain uninfluenced by other content.

From the first line, the 83-year-old philosopher pulls at readers’ heartstrings. “You will soon reach 82. You became six centimeters shorter than before, and weigh only 45 kilograms. But you still charming, grace, and beautiful……An empty gap deep in my heart is growing once again. Only you can fill the gap with your warmth by hugging me.”

The line leads to a love story with Dorin. Their love sometimes was intense like storms and sometimes was transparent like mirrors. He recalled his third encounter with Dorin as follows: “You trotted down the road, and I walked hurriedly to catch up with you. It was snowing at the time. Your hair got curly by the humidity. Though I was not sure you would accept my request to go dancing, I asked. You said without hesitation, ‘Why not?’ This was October 23, 1947.”

He portrayed his falling in love with her as purely as a snow scene. Gorz’s views on love and marriage are representative of his philosophy and ideology. “Love is something whereby two persons become attracted to each other. While they refuse their roles, images, and cultural restrictions society imposes upon them, they engross in each other.”

His inclination to progressive philosophies is also well demonstrated in his view on love. While he reflects on his philosophical and ideological path since he joined French society in the 1950s, he confesses that his wife had been one of the pillars of his career and expresses his thanks to her.

In 1983, his wife became incurably ill after undergoing spinal surgery. It wasn’t long after that he moved himself away from Marxism and turned to an eco-politician. Settling down at a country home, he devoted himself to tending to his wife. He was constantly haunted by the fear that his wife would soon die, but the more it weighed down him, the deeper his love for her grew.

“I no longer want to ‘put existence on the back burner,’ as Georges Bataille said. Just as we met for the first time, I devote all my attention to you. And I want you to feel my love.”

One will notice while reading the book that he was not only a great philosopher but also an individual of character. And while reading the book, readers will probably feel that they are looking at a landscape of snow.