Lecturer in French early modern literature Dr Pollie Bromilow is interviewed in a Radio Four documentary ‘Does Happiness Write White? which will be broadcast Thursday 30 June at 11.30am. In the interview, Dr Bromilow explains the context to Henri de Montherlant’s aphorism ‘happiness writes white’ or:

 ‘le bonheur écrit à l’encre blanche sur des pages blanches’.

The programme’s title is a line from Montherlant’s play Don Juan in which the aging eponymous hero is compelled repeatedly to seduce women in order to give him a reason to go on living. In the speech from which this aphorism is taken, he describes his sexual conquests as bright stars in an otherwise dark night. Montherlant’s Don Juan was first performed in 1958 and did not meet with approval from audiences, perhaps because  it was a gloomy and depressing reworking of a dramatic tradition, the representation of the seductive Don Juan, which is usually frivolous and  somewhat titillating.

This play, on the other hand, ends with Don Juan putting on the mask he usually wears when seducing, only to find that it has been transformed into a death mask. Instead of refusing his mortality by putting on the mask he ends up unwittingly embracing it and stalking the streets of Seville as a figure of death.

Update: you can listen again to the programme here.