This essay attempts to “bring out” Roland Barthes as an unnamable textual figure in the Taiwanese writer Chu T'ien-wen's Huangren shouji (Notes of a Desolate Man). Chu's “gay novel” is notorious for its narrator's seemingly inexhaustible references to a legion of writers, film directors, thinkers, and artists from across the globe. Among these encyclopedic references are allusions to Barthes's writings, most notably A Lover's Discourse: Fragments and The Pleasure of the Text. However, when the narrator of Chu's novel quotes from The Pleasure of the Text, he apparently forgets who he is quoting. In fact, the name “Roland Barthes” is elided throughout the novel. As a result, Barthes seems to become an unnamable figure in the novel, occupying the textual non-place usually reserved for homosexuality itself. To bring out “Roland Barthes,” this essay explores the intertextual space between Chu and Barthes. It uses Barthes's theorization of “text” and “intertextuality” to demonstrate that the seemingly endless — and controversial — quotations and references in Chu's novel are connected to its concern with promiscuous homosexuality. It thus serves as an alternative reading to Ng Kim Chew's influential essay on Chu, which “heterosexualizes” Chu's novel through an author-centered biographical approach. Barthes's textual theory, by contrast, dismisses the relevance of the author's intention and problematizes the use of the author's biography in reading a text. This essay follows his encouragement to play with the signifiers of a text (including the author's “biographemes”) so as to generate meanings unforeseen by the author. Ultimately, the unforeseen textual echoes between Chu's novel and Barthes's text almost (but not quite) produce the perverse and impossible enunciation “I am Roland Barthes.”

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