I’ve long had a tendency to anhedonia, the inability to derive pleasure, to enjoy. Mine’s by no means the worst of cases. I can be happy for a while, in the moment; but then I find myself thinking too hard about the situation I’m in and I start to feel guilty or self-conscious or just plain bored. I suppose I could stop thinking, but I’d rather be sad than stupid, to be honest.
So I was intrigued to read today of Malcolm Myatt, who in 2004 suffered a stroke that left him unable to feel sadness. Which all sounds lovely, but surely without at least an occasional spasm of sadness you cease to recognise joy? Am I reading too much into Mr Myatt’s pathological cheeriness if I claim to detect a hint of quiet desperation behind his eyes? It all reminds me of Marcel Marceau’s routine The Mask Maker, in which he’s trapped in a rictus of happiness, able to communicate his anguish only through his body movements. I saw Marceau perform it live over 30 years ago and hadn’t realised there was a filmed version available; nor that it was scripted (can a mime routine be scripted) by maverick movie director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who went on to make El Topo, Santa Sangre and other slabs of cinematic grand guignol. Not that that would have meant much to me when I saw it, at the age of 12 or so. Anyway, enjoy the clip; or don’t.