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  • [ Applause ]

  • >> Thank you.

  • Thank you so much.

  • What a pleasure to be back in Australia

  • to be back at the Opera House.

  • Thank you so much for coming out tonight.

  • As Ann's just said, I've written a novel, but I don't want

  • to talk particularly specifically about the novel.

  • Please buy it after if you feel inclined.

  • But what I really want to do is talk about some

  • of the ideas behind the novel.

  • And some of these people say to me you know,

  • 'why did you even bother to write a novel?

  • I thought you were supposed to be a nonfiction writer.

  • And the reason I wrote a novel is that I believe that many

  • of our ideas on love come from reading novels.

  • Also, songs, films, etcetera.

  • But essentially we are very shaped

  • by the love narratives that we read.

  • And this could seem a little cruel.

  • We tend to think that we love spontaneously

  • that we're not influenced by what we read and by what we see,

  • but I think that we are.

  • We love within a very historical social context.

  • It's that lovely biting aphorism from La Rochefoucauld he says

  • "There are some people who would never have fallen in love

  • if they hadn't heard there was such a thing."

  • That's a little extreme, but you get the idea that really

  • when we love we're taking a lot of our cues

  • from the outside world.

  • We honour certain feelings that we experience

  • because other people are telling us to honour them.

  • We suppress other feelings because people have told us not

  • to pay them particular attention.

  • Now we are nowadays firmly in a very distinctive era

  • in the history of love.

  • We are living in the era of Romanticism.

  • Romanticism is an intellectual movement

  • that began the swallows, studies,

  • garrets of European poets, novelists,

  • writers in the middle end of the 18th century and nowadays even

  • if you've never heard of a single romantic poet or novelist

  • from any garret in old Europe

  • and you're just having your love life here

  • in Sydney you are influenced.

  • Because we all are by romanticism.

  • So whether you don't necessarily know about it, or feel it,

  • or touch it, it is all around us.

  • In the ether.

  • We are living, ladies and gentleman

  • in the era of Romanticism.

  • Now what does Romanticism tell us about love.

  • It has a very distinctive set of arguments

  • about what love is like, what we should expect from love

  • and how relationships should go.

  • And let me run you through a few romantic assumptions.

  • I think first, and most central assumption is that for all of us

  • out there, there is most definitely a soul mate.

  • We may not have met them already, we may be swiping left,

  • right furiously in order to try and locate them.

  • They exist.

  • And eventually if we keep going hard enough we will find them.

  • And when we find them our soul will fuse with theirs.

  • All areas that have previously been confused

  • and lonely will be redeemed.

  • We will no longer feel ourselves worthless, agonising,

  • melancholic for the mysteries

  • of existence we have found a true friend

  • and loneliness will be banished.

  • This, ladies and gentleman, is the person waiting

  • for us somewhere out there.

  • The soul mate.

  • How are we going to find this person?

  • Well, big question.

  • The dominant answer of romanticism is by instinct.

  • You know for most of history the way that people were matched

  • up was by the elders of the community, by parents,

  • by other people than the couple themselves.

  • It was what was known as a marriage of reason.

  • And there were reasonable criteria.

  • So-called reasonable criteria, which is maybe

  • that you had a goat and they had a sheep.

  • Or you had a plot of land and they had an adjoining part

  • of land or whatever it was.

  • And it was on that basis

  • that the so-called domestic marriages were made.

  • And that was the way in which people married, have married

  • for thousands of years, really since the beginning of time.

  • But along comes Romanticism and says no, we're going to marry

  • in a different way, we're going to marry by instinct.

  • And the instinct is

  • that somewhere along the line you will feel a special feeling.

  • A very, very special feeling inside.

  • Kind of excitement.

  • And you don't know when it will strike you.

  • Maybe you're at the bar, maybe you're at the swimming pool.

  • Maybe you're just waiting in line for something,

  • you'll spot somebody and without necessarily knowing too much

  • about them de the romantics will quack in on it happening

  • without knowing anything about them other

  • than simply seeing their face.

  • You will know that's your soulmate.

  • And so, that special feeling has become venerated.

  • And whoever, first of all you don't question

  • that special feeling so, you know if you said

  • to your parents, and they go, all right tell me about your,

  • you just say I've had that special feeling

  • and everyone just, you know the waters part

  • and the couple moves forward

  • because there's been that special feeling.

  • So once the special feeling has been announced,

  • you raise the flag, the special feeling has happened

  • and that's terrific.

  • Of course if you don't feel

  • that special feeling it's a bit embarrassing.

  • Is there something wrong with me, etcetera, so you may start

  • to fake the special feeling, kind of like someone can fake

  • that you've had this romantic special feeling.

  • And so Romanticism is very into the notion of the crush,

  • and the immediate sensation of certainty

  • that you have met someone very special.

  • Romanticism goes hand and hand with the developments

  • of the railways in Europe in the 19th century.

  • And an awful lot of these meetings happened

  • on trains in fiction.

  • In Russian fiction alone,

  • fiction alone you could build a library of stories

  • in which the hero and heroine meet on a train

  • and without much knowledge, let's say just the sight maybe

  • of an ankle, an elbow, curvature of a cheek,

  • you will know that's a soulmate and that's how it begins.

  • So that's how you're going to find your life partner.

  • The romantics are very keen on the notion

  • of happily ever after.

  • That love is not just a passing phase, it is forever.

  • Until death do us part.

  • Strikingly many of the romantics die quite young [laughter].

  • And so often the story begins, couple falls madly in love

  • and then [coughing], somebody got a little cough

  • and then tuberculosis and [coughing]

  • and it's you know it's a beautiful love story

  • but it does end after a few months.

  • But nevertheless it's forever in a sense.

  • And Romanticism is also very keen on suicide,

  • ending things dramatically.

  • So death has a curious relationship with love

  • in the romantic point of view.

  • The other essential thing about the romantics is

  • that generally no one really has a job.

  • None of the romantics really have jobs.

  • So they can devote a lot of time to love.

  • And they're spending a lot of time just in each other's arms,

  • and also going for walks.

  • Nature is incredibly important for the romantics.

  • Going out into nature for long, long walks,

  • very particular places.

  • Waterfalls, very romantic place.

  • Also places where the ocean meets the land, dramatic cliffs,

  • pounding of seas,

  • very quintessentially romantic places.

  • Romantic times of day.

  • Dusk is a quintessentially romantic time.

  • Especially when you know there are a layer of clouds,

  • and the underside of the clouds are lit up by the shafts

  • of the dying sun turning the sky a purple-pink hew,

  • very romantic sort of moment.

  • A moment to enforce love through the help of nature.

  • The romantics have a very distinctive take on sex.

  • People have obviously been having sex for all

  • of human history and there's been some love.

  • But what the romantics do is a remarkable fusion

  • of love and sex.

  • They basically consecrate sex as the summit of love

  • and the ultimate expression of love.

  • So far from being merely a mechanical action,

  • it becomes this most sincere expression of your feelings

  • for another person, almost define expression

  • of tenderness for another person.

  • Very beautiful.

  • It has a slight drawback, which is that it turns adultery

  • into a tragedy, a catastrophe, because if you believe,

  • as the romantics do that sex is the crowning expression of love,

  • then any interest outside

  • of the couple will be catastrophic in nature.

  • And that's why almost every great novel of the 19th century

  • in Europe is about adultery, in one form or another.

  • Starting with Flaubert's "Madame Bovary", moving on to Tolstoy's

  • " Anna Karenina" and on, and on.

  • People have been having adultery for all of human history.

  • It's been happening all the time,

  • but what's new is the weight that's put on it.

  • And as I say it is a violation of everything

  • that the romantics believe that love is.

  • Now, I should say that many

  • of these romantic ideas are very beautiful.

  • They're very exciting and we all live through them

  • and it would be naive to someway dismiss them

  • as irrelevant to the way we live.

  • They are everywhere and they are the centre

  • of how we approach love.

  • But I also want to insist

  • that Romanticism has been a catastrophe for our capacity

  • to have good long-term relationships.

  • And if we want to have a chance of succeeding at love,

  • we will have to be disloyal to many of the romantic emotions

  • that got us into relationships in the first place.

  • Romanticism has spelt trouble for our capacity to endure

  • and thrive in long-term relationships.

  • Why do I say that?

  • Well let me run you through a few of the areas that I believe

  • that Romanticism has spelt difficulty

  • for us in relationships.

  • So Romanticism replaced an earlier vision of human nature,

  • which tended to stress how fragile,

  • broken and very sinful we all were.

  • An old Christian idea.

  • And Romanticism comes along and dismisses this attitude

  • as hopelessly pessimistic and insists instead on the purity

  • and good nature of every human being.

  • For the romantics, the romantics place an awful lot

  • of emphasis on children.

  • And children, for the romantics are always good,

  • they're always sweet.

  • It begins with Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  • in the mid-18th century.

  • The child is the purest expression of human kind

  • and the only thing that makes a child bad is societies.

  • Only society corrupts children.

  • But basically it's a sign that we are born good.

  • And the older view, which was associated

  • with Christian theologians like St. Augustine,

  • which stressed the fundamental sinfulness.

  • You know, St. Augustine argued that all of us bear

  • within us the original sin of Adam and therefore all of us.

  • It's good to speak like this at a pulpit

  • to an audience, but [laughter].

  • But all of us, all of us are sinners, or potential sinners,

  • and therefore need to be at the mercy of others

  • and of the divine, in order, I'm a secular Jew, but the divine,

  • in order to endure life.

  • Now Romanticism does away with this and says to us that all

  • of us are angelic by nature.

  • The interesting thing is that Romanticism coincides

  • with the decline in organised religion.

  • So just as religion is declining Romanticism rises,

  • and it's in many ways a replacement,

  • a secular alternative.

  • So when we get together in love.

  • You know what's fascinating, is the beginning of the use

  • of the word angel to refer not to those winged creates

  • up in the sky, but to refer to other human beings.

  • And there's a marked increase of this in the age of Romanticism.

  • And nowadays of course, many