Bouvard & Pecuchet

Flaubert

Programming / to stage

If you know Dumb and Dumber, then you also know Bouvard and Pecuchet: the latter two are the French version – let’s say they are the appalling ancestors of their two equally appalling descendants. Our two Frenchmen have decided to become experts in all sciences.

Of the four, I don’t know which one is the most stupid – the contest is open and the results are close.

Bouvard and Pecuchet are two old Parisian employees, who know each other as we know each other in Paris: by frequenting the same bistro, we get to know each other. By dint of being bored, they find each other. After years of sipping wine at the same table, they think they are brothers.
The two companions were only waiting for one thing: their retirement.
They pooled their savings and their pension and headed for science!
Because, as they are Parisians and French, they are convinced that classical scientists are stupid donkeys, just good for dusting.

Here they are in Normandy, new lords of an “estate” – which they already see themselves transforming into an international laboratory – a magical place for all the great minds of the world.

They will thus begin their life of unknown geniuses by tackling scientifically the agricultural works.
They want to save the world from hunger, aphids and phylloxera. Here they are with their manuals to learn how to plant, as now you will find others with their phones in hand, watching the Tuto that will allow them to start permaculture.


And so it goes: psychoriginally check the temperature and humidity, in the sun, in the shade, at the foot of the plants and at the end of the buds. Here they are, flooding their field with ladybugs, because ladybugs love to eat aphids. They were ripped off: the ladybugs were sold wild, but they should have been trained. If you don’t train the ladybugs, they go into the neighbor’s fields – they are dirty beasts.

In the end, the crop was lost, the plants did not understand the new cultivation methods and they rotted.
Do you think this will discourage our two idiots? Not at all.

When they start studying astronomy – which seems less risky – they spend a fortune on equipment – they learn the positions of stars, tricks and things, hope to discover the comet that will make them famous. But the problem with astronomy is that it happens at night.
And the other problem is that in Normandy, it often rains. They get seriously ill and find themselves with their feet in hot water, an ice pack on their head and a thermometer in their mouth. No more astronomy –

They find a bone? Quickly, throw themselves into natural history and reconstruct the mammoth that must have perished there, a few millennia before them.

No more bones in the garden ? It doesn’t matter :

They throw themselves into Physics – physics is simple and it also solves all the problems of humanity.
Our two zouaves, having understood that energy was the major problem of humanity, decide to help us and undertake to find a green and clean energy. (and no, this concern is not at all a novelty)

They found the solution.

I hope you are as surprised as you are jealous – you didn’t find it, you didn’t save the world. They found it.
Don’t you believe me?

You know that every movement you make produces heat – which means that you and I are a little power plant that doesn’t know it.
Fortunately, they’re here to harness that under-talked about factor.
For example, you don’t have to use wood, coal, oil, wind or atomic energy to take a nice hot bath.

You want the technique? You fill your bathtub with cold water.
You get in the tub.
And then, you start moving very, very fast, so as to warm up your water. Stop when it gets hot.
So easy – so obvious. You’re blown away, I can feel it.

Did I say that it is a novel ? Bouvard et Pecuchet, by Flaubert, of whom you may have heard with his very famous novels : Sentimental Education and Madame Bovary. Flaubert was quite a naughty guy, with a sense of humor turned to acid – like Voltaire – you know those Frenchmen who have wit and whose wit sees all, but then all, the faults of the world.

What you need to know to really appreciate this – is that the author has tried everything before his characters.
His sister panicked and thought he had gone mad, when, while attempting the bathtub experiment, she heard him thrashing around like a devil, then leaping – naked and wet – out of the shower room, pursued by a yellow dog that was after his manhood.

Soon enough, Flaubert’s entire family thought that their literary genius had gone completely mad – an illness perhaps? a thwarted love?
That didn’t stop him from going on – how do you know how much your sweat weighs in a day in the sun?
It’s very easy – you put everything naked in the sun on your scale – you take nothing: no water – nothing. You write down your starting weight. You write down your weight at sunset and you will know how much your sweat weighs in the sun. Isn’t that so obvious and easy and amazing ? Of course, it is. No, no sunscreen, that would distort the calculation.
The burn cream will be after the experiment
.

This novel is not well known – because again, as far as history and narration are concerned, it is not at all classical.
It could easily be cut into as many scientific fantasies and that would give as many short stories, short plays whose characters are frighteningly ridiculous.

There have been several adaptations for the stage in France, an excellent film with Jean-Pierre Marielle and Jean Carmet – from which I draw the illustrations.
It necessarily works with the public, because it is a comedy and the characters are rare of stupidity.

And as we are in the mode of: I film you my tutorial to assemble a shelf – and that the others (including me), we say to ourselves: it is good, it will be easy – I believe that we are almost all transformed into Bouvard and Pecuchet.
Which is quite practical to find an audience: we will admire ourselves on a stage.

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Featured Image : Jean-Pierre Marielle & Jean Carmet in Bouvard et Pécuchet -1989

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