Many thanks to all of the readers who wrote this weekend with answers to my query about a Simone Weil quotation. Several folks sent this one, which made me fear I had misremembered the force of the remark by a full 180 degrees:
Nothing is so beautiful and wonderful, nothing is so continually fresh and surprising, so full of sweet and perpetual ecstasy, as the good. No desert is so dreary, monotonous, and boring as evil. This is the truth about authentic good and evil. With fictional good and evil it is the other way around. Fictional good is boring and flat, while fictional evil is varied and intriguing, attractive, profound, full of charm.
The source is an essay called “Morality and Literature,” first published in Cahiers du Sud (January 1944). However, the following quotation, tracked down by one intrepid reader, seems to vindicate my memory without contradicting the above. Here Weil claims that the greatest literature is that which manages to make good interesting, and thus comes closest to a particular kind of realism:
Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvellous, intoxicating. Therefore ‘imaginative literature’ is either boring or immoral (or a mixture of both). It only escapes from this alternative if in some way it passes over to the side of reality through the power of art–and only geniuses can do that.