07 June 2007

The Most Reliable Form Of Pleasure?

Monsieur E's recent visit to England, spent at my London pad, got me thinking about the good old days when we were still resident on the same continent before he abandoned Cambridge for Paris, Berkeley, Paris again (now) and (soon) Philly. Not that I can really blame him.

Back in the day, Monsieur E and I would spend hours trying to out-pretentious each other and he was absolutely adamant that his favourite quotation — anticipation is the purest form of pleasure — came from Flaubert's L'Éducation Sentimentale in its English translation. However, trusty Google disagreed. In fact, the only source that kept coming up was episode 16 of season 5 of Dawson's Creek (then my favourite TV programme and much maligned by Monsieur E), in an exchange between heroine Joey and her English lit professor, while discussing their favourite novel endings:
Joey: How do you remember something that never happened?

Professor Wilder: Fondly. You see, Flaubert believed that anticipation was the purest form of pleasure...and the most reliable. And that while the things that actually happen to you would invariably disappoint, the things that never happened to you would never dim. Never fade. They would always be engraved in your heart with a sort of sweet sadness.
I was delighted at the thought that Monsieur E's favourite quotation could have come from DC but eventually, the mystery was solved; the DC episode is very closely paraphrasing Julian Barnes' novel Flaubert's Parrot, which lets Monsieur E off the hook to some extent. I hadn't read anything by Barnes at the time but went right out and bought the book, found the extract and immediately emailed Monsieur E. 

It turns out that Flaubert merely implied that anticipation was the purest form of pleasure but the quotation is definitely all Barnes' (I think to infer this, you really have to read the whole of L'Éducation Sentimentale in the original French, which sounded like much too much effort just to prove a point):
Isn't the most reliable form of pleasure, Flaubert implies, the pleasure of anticipation? Who needs to burst into fulfilment's desolate attic?
Appletiser begs to differ, claiming to be "100% Pure Pleasure," which would therefore mean that Appletiser is the purest form of pleasure, or that anticipation is the purest form of Appletiser? Or something.

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