« All these unwritten books tantalise. Yet they can, to an extent be filled out, ordered, reimagined. They can be studied in academies. A pier is a disappointed bridge; yet stare at it long enough and you can dream it to the other side of the Channel. The same is true with these stubs of books.
But what of the unled lives? These perhaps are more truly tantalizing; these are the real apocrypha. (…) But if Gustave himself had changed course? It’s easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren’t writers, and very little harm comes to them. A phrenologist – that careers master of the nineteenth century – once examined Flaubert and told him he was cut out to be a tamer of wild beasts. Not so inaccurate either. That quote again: « I attract mad people and animals.
This is not just the life that we know. It is not the life that has been successfully hidden. It is not just the lies about the life, some of which cannot now be disbelieved. It is also the life that was not led. »
Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s parrot