The Paradox of Love by Pascal Bruckner

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The sexual revolution is justly celebrated for the freedoms it brought--birth control, the decriminalization of abortion, the liberalization of divorce, greater equality between the sexes, women's massive entry into the workforce, and more tolerance of homosexuality. But as Pascal Bruckner, one of France's leading writers, argues in this lively and provocative reflection on the contradictions of modern love, our new freedoms have also brought new burdens and rules--without, however, wiping out the old rules, emotions, desires, and arrangements: the couple, marriage, jealousy, the demand for fidelity, the war between constancy and inconstancy. It is no wonder that love, sex, and relationships today are so confusing, so difficult, and so paradoxical.

Drawing on history, politics, psychology, literature, pop culture, and current events, this book--a best seller in France--exposes and dissects these paradoxes. With his customary brilliance and wit, Bruckner traces the roots of sexual liberation back to the Enlightenment in order to explain love's supreme paradox, epitomized by the 1960s oxymoron of "free love": the tension between freedom, which separates, and love, which attaches. Ashamed that our sex lives fail to live up to such liberated ideals, we have traded neuroses of repression for neuroses of inadequacy, and we overcompensate: "Our parents lied about their morality," Bruckner writes, but "we lie about our immorality."

Mixing irony and optimism, Bruckner argues that, when it comes to love, we should side neither with the revolutionaries nor the reactionaries. Rather, taking love and ourselves as we are, we should realize that love makes no progress and that its messiness, surprises, and paradoxes are not merely the sources of its pain--but also of its pleasure and glory.


About Pascal Bruckner

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Pascal Bruckner is the author of many books including The Tyranny of Guilt, Perpetual Euphoria and The Paradox of Love. He writes regularly for Le Nouvel Observateur.
Published February 13, 2012 by Princeton University Press. 272 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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What we call "love," he says, comes to us in the contrasting forms of "agape" (or universal) love, which derives from Christianity, and passion, which emerges from medieval cults and various versions of chivalry.

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The Wall Street Journal

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From Romeo and Juliet to the one-night stand— modern societies are torn between the ideal of fidelity and the thirst for freedom.

Mar 10 2012 | Read Full Review of The Paradox of Love

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