“Learning What Love Means” by Mathieu Lindon— Mathieu and Michel

Lindon, Mathieu. “Learning What Love Means”, translated by Bruce Benderson, Semiotext(e) / Native Agents, 2017.

Mathieu and Michel

Amos Lassen

In 1978, Mathieu Lindon was 23 years old when he met Michel Foucault. Lindon was part of a small group of jaded but innocent, brilliant, and sexually ambivalent friends who came to know Foucault. At first they were the caretakers of Foucault’s apartment on rue de Vaugirard when he was away but they eventually shared their time, drugs, ambitions, and writings with the older existential philosopher. Lindon’s friend, the late Herve Guibert, was a key figure within this group. Lindon was the son of the renowned founder of Editions de Minuit and Lindon grew up with Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Samuel Beckett as family friends. Much was expected of him but it was through his friendship with Foucault (who was simply an older friend) that he found the direction that would influence the rest of his life.  

The book is a collage of free-associated episodes and interpretations that together teach about how to love. It is “a story of conversion testifying to an author’s radical change of viewpoint, which leads to his invitation into the social world through lessons about love.” It is also a meditation on friendship that gives insight into a part of Foucault’s life and work that until now, remained unknown.

“I loved Michel as Michel, not as a father. Never did I feel the slightest jealousy or the slightest embitterment or exasperation when it came to him.  … I was intensely close to Michel for a full six years, until his death, and I lived in his apartment for close to a year. Today I see that time as the period that changed my life, my cut-off from a fate leading to the precipice. In no specific way I’m grateful to Michel, without knowing for exactly what, for a better life.” — from  “Learning What Love Means”.

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