They were free.

The party continued the whole day, at about five in the afternoon Pablo returned with some pains au chocolat and croissants, I accepted a croissant, which I dipped in a bowl of café au lait, the music was calmer, it was a kind of melodious and serene chill-out track, several girls were dancing, slowly moving their arms, like big wings. Esther was a few meters away but paid no attention to me when I sat down, she continued to chat with her friends, to evoke memories of other parties, and it was at that moment that I understood. She was leaving for the United States for a year, maybe forever; over there she would make new friends, and, of course, she would find a new boyfriend. I was abandoned, certainly, but in exactly the same way that they were, I had no special status. This feeling of exclusive attachment I had, which was going to torture me until it eventually annihilated me, found no correspondence at all in her, it had no justification, no raison d’être: our flesh was distinct, we were unable to experience either the same suffering or the same joy, we were obviously separate beings. Isabelle did not like sexual pleasure, but Esther did not like love, she did not want to be in love, she refused this feeling of exclusivity, of dependence, and her whole generation refused it with her. I was wandering among them like some kind of prehistoric monster with my romantic silliness, my attachments, my chains. For Esther, as for all the young girls of her generation, sexuality was just a pleasant pastime, driven by seduction and eroticism, which implied no particular sentimental commitment; undoubtedly love, like pity, according to Nietzsche, had never been anything but a fiction invented by the weak to make the strong feel guilty, to introduce limits to their natural freedom and ferocity. Women had been weak, in particular at the moment of giving birth, early on they had needed to live under the guardianship of a powerful protector, and to this end they had invented love, but now they had become strong, they were independent and free, and they had given up inspiring or indeed feeling a sentiment that no longer had any concrete justification. The centuries-old male project, perfectly expressed nowadays by pornographic films, that consisted of ridding sexuality of any emotional connotation in order to bring it back into the realm of pure entertainment had finally, in this generation, been accomplished. What I was feeling, these young people could not feel, nor even exactly understand, and if they had been able to feel something like it, it would have made them uncomfortable, as if it were something ridiculous and a little shameful, like stigmata in ancient times. They had succeeded, after decades of conditioning and effort, they had finally succeeded in tearing from their hearts one of the oldest human feelings, and now it was done, what had been destroyed could no longer be put back together, no more than the pieces of a broken cup can be reassembled, they had reached their goal: at no moment in their lives would they ever know love. They were free.

The possibility of an island
Michel Houellebecq (2005)

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