The comedy of pomposity

“There is something so essentially grotesque about gendarmes that I cannot help laughing at them; these upholders of the law always produce the same comic effect on me, and so do attorneys for the king, magistrates, and professors of literature.” – Gustave Flaubert, “Over Strand and Field” (trans. unknown)

Just a tad

“Man was made to enjoy each day only a small potion of food, colours, sounds, sentiments and ideas. Anything above the allotted quantity tires or intoxicates him; it becomes the idiocy of the drunkard or the ravings of the ecstatic.” – Gustave Flaubert, “Over Strand and Field” (trans. unknown)

This is going to hurt you more than it is going to hurt me

“The flip side of brutality and evil is, dependably, sentimentality. The hit man kissing the picture of his sainted mother before he exterminates a mark, the mawkish evocations of home and youth in Nazi propaganda, the image of the pristine Southern belle under siege that propelled so many lynchings, the need for cleansing, cleansing…. Sentimentality is the perfume that disguises, and even justifies, this lust for brutal cleansing and killing. But the inverse is also true: that an attitude, or a pose, of cool and bracing willingness to face evil and brutality, and to dismiss its opposite as wish fulfillment, might function as a sea wall against a tide of shame and grief so heavy that it can’t be faced directly. The stink of mistakes made, or possibilities lost, can make an image of the good intolerable. If it is too expensive to look at what might have been and realize that one may just not have been good enough, it can be a comfort to think that it was never possible in the first place. This evasion is possible on a societal level, as well as in the private hearts of individuals. The novel is the best tool we have for understanding the one level in terms of the other.” – Tom Piazza, “The Devil and Gustave Flaubert”

Quash it!

“Every bourgeois in the flush of his youth, were it but for a day, a moment, has believed himself capable of immense passions, of lofty enterprises. The most mediocre libertine has dreamed of sultanas; every notary bears within him the debris of a poet.” – Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (trans. Marx-Aveling)