LACAN 2 min

From Love letters from Jacques Lacan,
received during our long and turbulent love affair
from 1951 to his death in 1981


It was not Jacques’s usual custom to send me postcards when he was absent. He felt (I think) that I would read too much into the image on the face of the postcards, that I might place them in full view propped on a mantel-piece or in a card-holder, folded back on themselves, in my small room in Paris. And of course, one had to beware images, that restricted sphere of self-consciousness, self-awareness, a register opposed to that of the field of speech—we both knew this. Yes, beware images, mon amour, he would say, for in the imaginary we create fantasy images of ourselves and of our ideal object of desire. Yet, nonetheless, from Munich, he sent me seven postcards, mon amour bien-aimé. Each started with the address to me as his love and each ended with his offer of love, of himself, to me. It seemed as though he had selected the postcards at random, but I would daydream when I received them, taking each on its arrival from the mailbox in the hallway, imagining him going into a small Papeterie to pay for his purchase from the revolving rack outside the shop, or perhaps entering a Tabakhändlerin as he went in search of cigars, his trademark, like a logo with its own dedicated semiology, from the Cuban family of culebras, delivered in a bundle of three small twisted cigars tied with a delicate thread, the wrapper leaves soft enough to be twisted and then braided. I would think of his small wry coughs with fondness, and indeed, anticipation. His handwriting was always difficult to decipher, divergent and unruly. And still I would find meaning in everything, every gesture, every word, and yes, every image that came from him, my master: the postcard of the Royal Brewery, the postcard of the traditional bogie tram, of the Marienplatz with its rising central column, of the Frauenkirche with its two enormous onion-domed towers, followed by postcards of the fountain of Neptune in the Botanical Gardens, a muscular Neptune shouldering his trident and a fish-tailed horse surging from the water, and of the Wittelsbach fountain in Maximiliansplatz, an allegory of the primal elemental force of water. The last postcard showed a Bierkeller, perhaps from his last night out with friends and colleagues from the conference at which he delivered his lecture on the meaning of the phallus (oh, how I regret still I could not be there with him). In 1958 he no longer needed to seduce me; by this time, from him I accepted everything, and not according to a script that had been set for me, no.

01 ENVOIS V min

Mon amour,

I. We must articulate our status here, beginning with demand. Demand in itself bears on something other than the satisfaction it calls for. It is demand of a presence or an absence. Demand annuls the particularity of everything that can be granted by turning it into a proof of love. The very satisfactions that it obtains for needs are reduced to the level of being no more the crushing of the demand for love for us. Desire substitutes the ‘absolute’ condition that is resistant to the satisfaction of a need. Desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction, nor the demand for love, but the difference that results.

02 ENVOIS V min

II. One can see how the sexual relation occupies this closed field of desire, in which it will play out its fate. For both partners in this relation, it is not enough to be subjects of need, or objects of love, but that we must stand for the cause of desire.

03 ENVOIS V min

III. The phallus is the privileged signifier of that mark in which the role of the logos is joined by the advent of desire. I shall also be using the phallus—I shall have to rely on the echoes of the experience we share. The demand for love can only suffer from a desire whose signifier is alien to it. This is the moment of the experience. Here is signed the conjunction of our desire.

04 ENVOIS V min

IV. Let us say that these relations will turn around. It has the effect of projecting the act of copulation itself into the comedy. This takes on a new vigour from the demand that they are capable of satisfying, which is always a demand for love, with its complement of the reduction of desire to demand.

05 ENVOIS V min

V. It is for that which you are not that you wish to be desired as well as loved. But you find the signifier of your own desire in the body of him to whom you address your demand for love. For you remains that an experience of love, which deprives you ideally of that which the object gives, and a desire which finds its signifier in this object, converge in the same object.

06 ENVOIS V min

VI. The signifier of the phallus constitutes you as giving in love what you do not have. My own desire for the phallus will make its signifier emerge in its own divergence to ‘another woman’. It makes impotence hard to bear for me, while the Verdrängung inherent is desire is more important.

07 ENVOIS V min

VII. Yet it should not be thought that the sort of infidelity that would appear to be constitutive is proper to it. For if one looks more closely, the same redoubling is to be found in you, except that the Other of Love as such, that is to say, in so far as I am deprived of what I give, finds it difficult to see myself in the retreat in which I am substituted for the being of the very man whose attributes you cherish. These remarks should really be examined in greater detail.

Ton amour.


Sharon Kivland is an artist and writer (she has also been called a poet, to her surprise). She is also an editor and publisher, the latter under the imprint MA BIBLIOTHÈQUE. Currently she is working on fables and the natural form, editing the letters sent to her by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, and trying to write a new book, ALMANACH. Her novel ABÉCÉDAIRE will be published by Moist in July 2022.

ENVOIS V comes from the work Envois: Love letters from Jacques Lacan, received during our love affair from 1951 to his death in 1981. Parts of the project have been published (and read) as follows:
ENVOIS I. 1953–1954, in Emily Beber (ed.), The Bodies that Remain, New York: Punctum, 2017 [2016]
ENVOIS XX. 1972–73, in LUNE: A New Journal of Disorder, 2018
ENVOIS III. 1954–55, in OAR (Oxford Artistic and Practice based Research Platform), 2018
ENVOIS IV. 1955–1956, a reading for NO MATTER, Manchester, 2020. Published in the collection of the six commissions funded by the Arts Council in 2019 to 2021, with a poem by Scott Thurston. A PDF of the booklet may be downloaded
ENVOIS. PROMISES MADE BY JACQUES LACAN TO SHARON KIVLAND from 1953 to 1964. Audio recording for LOW TEXT, Berlin, 2020, a performance at Hopscotch Reading Room.