Do the books that writers don’t write matter? It’s easy to forget them, to assume that the apocryphal bibliography must contain nothing but bad ideas, justly abandoned projects, embarrassing first thoughts.
With Flaubert, the apocrypha cast a second shadow. If the sweetest moment in life is a visit to the brothel which doesn’t come off, perhaps the sweetest moment in writing is the arrival of that idea for a book which never has to be written, which is never sullied with a definite shape, which never needs be exposed to a less loving gaze than that of its author.
Julian Barnes – Flaubert’s Parrot