In the NYTimes article about the death of Claude Chabrol, I noticed this passage:
But behind the well-bred manners could be found a sly, mocking sense of humor — a quality Mr. Chabrol carried over to his frequent appearances on French talk shows.
“Stupidity is infinitely more fascinating that intelligence,” Mr. Chabrol once observed. “Intelligence has its limits while stupidity has none. To observe a profoundly stupid individual can be very enriching, and that’s why we should never feel contempt for them.”
How French can you get? “Sly, mocking” humor doesn’t get to the source of this, which lies deep within the heart of French literary culture and its preoccupation with lapidary phrases and ready wit, not to mention maximes. I immediately thought of Flaubert:
To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.