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LES ECHOS

Why The World Still Needs Love Letters - And Not Just On Valentine's Day

Has technology made love letters obsolete? Not quite. Old-fashioned epistles take time to write and send. But in these days of nearly instantaneous communication, that “delightful delay” – and the thought that goes into it – may be just the thing to set h

A street artist's adaptation of a 'love letter box' in Paris (Daquella manera)
A street artist's adaptation of a "love letter box" in Paris (Daquella manera)
Mélina Gazsi

PARIS -- On March 7, 1833, a young woman received a note from a man she had met a few months before: "I love you, my poor angel, you know it well, and yet you want me to write it. But you are right: One has to love, and then one has to say it, and then write it ... "The young woman in question was Juliette Drouet. The man who wrote the letter was Victor Hugo, who would go on to shower his mistress, a young French actress, with hundreds of such epistles.

Anne-Sophie Moutier, 23, is not yet that prolific a writer. But since this past November, when her boyfriend first went off to military school, she too has discovered the joys of "letter" writing. Granted, many of her correspondences involve e-mails and text messages. Not all, however. Anne-Sophie and her boyfriend sometimes write real, handwritten letters. The old-fashioned kind. "Nothing can replace a love letter," she says. "The phone is not enough and when you write, you can say things that may sound a little cheesy when said aloud."

Is Anne-Sophie a big romantic? Well, she's in love, at any rate. As is her fiancé. Before leaving for his training camp, he slips one of Anne-Sophie's letters underneath his shirt, "close to his heart." Are they being too lovey-dovey? Is their candor bordering on naiveté? Not at all. According to Philippe Brenot, a psychiatrist and president of the International Observatory of Couples, love letters are part of the romantic discourse and are "of considerable importance."

"Love letters are the place where confidences are made," he says. "They remain a powerful means of expressing one's feelings and one's desire – of declaring one's love, breathing life into it at the beginning of a relationship, and even allowing to rekindle the flame when love seems to be waning."

"With the telephone and with the arrival of new technologies, love letters almost disappeared," Brenot adds. "But actually, they've become unique, because time adds value. The time you take to write a letter, the time it takes for it to reach its recipient, and the time the latter takes to read it." It's hard to argue with the fact too that a handwritten letter, all alone in a mailbox full of flyers and bills, has a certain cachet.

"A delightful delay"

Are love letters still pertinent in this modern era, when sexual relations are no longer so taboo and elusive and when hardly anyone courts anymore? "More than ever!" says Roger Schembri, a French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who says love letters provide a "delightful delay."

"It's always been easier to write down feelings than to say them aloud. Especially nowadays, at a time when people find it easier to say ‘I want to have sex with you" than ‘I love you,"" he says. Love letters, Roger Schembri goes on to say, "deliver a fragment of a dream we all want to believe in."

It would seem, in other words, that the new means of communication haven't killed off love letters after all. For Joëlle-Andrée Deniot, a sociology professor at the University of Nantes, "Internet, Facebook and Twitter have rather encouraged letters'. And the youth, although addicted to all things virtual, is no exception to the rule. Young people express their feelings using all media, from paper to parchment, from Post-it notes to postcards, via text messages and e-mails. Their creativity knows no bounds.

The letter we receive, the one that bears the signature of our beloved, is as sensual and carnal as the expression of desire itself. Writing is like an extension of oneself. "It's like a caress, like a reassuring kiss," says Abiwen Josiane, 48.

Sometimes the person we are writing to is far away, or is leaving us for good. In those cases the act of writing can be a way to escape pain and sorrow, or a way to help us better understand our own feelings, to really discover what it is that's turning us upside down. "When I realized I would never see her again, I decided to write her the most beautiful love letter ever," says Jérémie Franc de Ferriere, 27.

A love letter definitely contains this fragment of dream we're all looking for, to protect us from the world's hardships and from our own turbulent times. At the same time it can give meaning to our sexuality, helping sort out that complicated but exciting rush of pleasure and feelings.

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photo – Daquella manera

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Economy

Cracking Food Prices, On The Front Line Of Brazil's Egg Rush

With the price of meat on the rise, Brazilians have turned to eggs. The country is now producing 55 billion eggs a year, presenting challenges for farmers and raising questions of animal welfare. And in Brazil's "Egg Capital", the climate crisis is complicating matters further.

Photo of a case of eggs a chicken farm in Brazil

Chicken farm in Brazil's “Egg Capital” of Bastos

Luíza Lanza and Daniel Tozzi Mendes

CURITIBA — "After the 15th, it's almost impossible to eat meat," says salesperson Cristina Souza Brito, as she leaves a supermarket in Curitiba, capital of the state of Paraná in southern Brazil.

“Chicken or beef is only available when the salary comes at the beginning of the month," she adds. "Then we get by with omelettes, fried or boiled eggs."

Since the beginning of 2021, this has been the routine in the house where she lives with her daughter, a niece and two siblings. Brazilians might be replacing meat with eggs because of their budgets: meat has increased in price above inflation and, in April 2022, it cost 42.6% more than in early 2020, according to the Institute of Applied Economic Research.

The group Food for Justice pointed out that at the end of 2020, eggs had been the food that Brazilians had been consuming more of (+18.8%), and meat recorded the biggest drop (-44%), which reinforces the idea of substitution between the two foods.

Health and economic crisis aside, Brazilians have never eaten as many eggs as they do now. Egg consumption in the country has more than doubled in the last 15 years, rising from the annual mark of 120 eggs per capita in 2007 to 257 in 2021, according to figures from the Brazilian Animal Protein Association. The current level of eggs consumed by each Brazilian over the course of a year is higher than the world average, which is 227.

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