The Readers Review: Literature from 1800 to 1910 discussion

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Archives 2012 Group Reads > The Red and the Black by Stendhal- Book One: Ch.1-10

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver Book One

Chapter 1 A Small Town

Chapter 2 A Mayor

Chapter 3 The Bread of the Poor

Chapter 4 Father and Son

Chapter 5 Driving a Bargain

Chapter 6 Dullness

Chapter 7 Elective Affinities

Chapter 8 Minor Events

Chapter 9 An Evening in the Country

Chapter 10 A Large Heart and a Small Fortune


message 2: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments I was surprised the extent to which Stendhal's description of a small manufacturing based town in France reminded me of the writing of George Sand.


message 3: by Silver (new)

Silver One of the things of which first struck out at me in reading this book is the humor of it. I was not expecting it, or at least I was not expecting it to be so readily prevalent. But I found the Mayor to be quite a satirical character.

I quite enjoyed the description of his wife, as being viewed as being somewhat stupid by the other ladies because of her failure to take full advantage over her husband and always missing the opportunities in which she might influence him to her own benefit.

We shall not attempt to conceal the fact that she was reckoned a fool in the eyes of their ladies, because, without any regard for her husband's interests, she let slip the most promising opportunities of procuring fine hats from Paris or Besancon. Provided that she was left alone to stroll in her fine garden, she never made any complaint.

I do have to say that, I do not know if it is just my translation but there are moments in which I do find the writing to feel a bit awkward in reading, but as I continue I will hopefully adapt more to the writing style.


message 4: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Silver wrote: "...I do find the writing to feel a bit awkward in reading..."

I agree. But I have encountered that in Sands and Flaubert, too. So I am wondering if it is also a bit of a way of thinking as well as a question of translation.


message 5: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Silver -- would you ascribe purpose to the humor as Stendhal uses it, i.e., does he use it in a particular way for a particular effect? I haven't come to a conclusion on that yet, but it seems it may be sort of a way of deprecating the seriousness associated with a character?


message 6: by Silver (new)

Silver Lily wrote: "Silver wrote: "...I do find the writing to feel a bit awkward in reading..."

I agree. But I have encountered that in Sands and Flaubert, too. So I am wondering if it is also a bit of a way of th..."


That is an interesting thought, perhpas it does have to do with a way of thinking.


message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver Lily wrote: "Silver -- would you ascribe purpose to the humor as Stendhal uses it, i.e., does he use it in a particular way for a particular effect? I haven't come to a conclusion on that yet, but it seems it ..."

It is a bit soon for me to determine that yet in the reading. It will be something to consider as the story progresses. Though I do tend to think that it is intended, at least in part as social commentary. But if it serves as other possible device in the story such as offsetting more serious elements I will have to keep reading to see if such seems to be the case.


message 8: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Silver wrote: "Though I do tend to think that it is intended, at least in part as social commentary..."

And I'll look for that!


message 9: by Kim (new)

Kim (KimMR) | 317 comments Silver wrote: " ... I do not know if it is just my translation but there are moments in which I do find the writing to feel a bit awkward in reading, but as I continue I will hopefully adapt more to the writing style..."

I'm listening to an audiobook in French and while the writing at times seems rather old-fashioned (not unexpectedly), I don't find it awkward. So it may be an issue with the translation, Silver.

I've also been a bit surprised by the humour, which I definitely wasn't expecting. There are plenty of digs - subtle and not so subtle - at various characters.


message 10: by MadgeUK (last edited May 02, 2012 12:47AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Stendhal was known for his cynicism and 'off beat' humour. He has also been described as 'quixotic'. As a half-caste in a time of conspicuous racial prejudice he had good reason to look at French society with a jaundiced eye.

We are also reading a French novel written in the same period as most of the English novels we have read here and I think perhaps it is the French style of writing which we find 'awkward' because we are more used to the Victorian style. We are, as it were, reading the novel and hearing a French accent:).


message 11: by Maria (new)

Maria I found the writing a bit awkward also, however, as I keep reading I find that it does flow better. As I go further into the book, on Ch. 26, I am finding a real love/hate relationship with Julien.


message 12: by Lily (last edited May 02, 2012 01:44PM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Kim wrote: "I'm listening to an audiobook in French and while the writing at times seems rather old-fashioned (not unexpectedly), I don't find it awkward. So it may be an issue with the translation..."

What seems awkward to me is more often the transitions in ideas (between paragraphs?) than the wording of sentences (although there is some of that).

Example (from Chap. 9): (view spoiler)


message 13: by Lily (last edited May 02, 2012 01:55PM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments A bit of "old-fashioned" writing from Chap. 11 that is enough to make one's female heart scream 'Halt."

(view spoiler)


message 14: by Silver (new)

Silver I find Julian to be a very curious character. He seems full of contradictions.

We are first presented with an image of him as preferring his books to doing his chores, and see how he is subject to ridicule and mistreatment, despised by his whole family, bullied by his brothers, beaten by his father. He is of a more delicate, and intellectual nature and does not fit into the station in which he was born and has greater aspirations.

But than when he is presented with what should be the ideal opportunity for him to get out of his current circumstances, to be free of his father, and be valued for his knowledge, he baulks at the idea that he may have to have dinner with the servants, and would refuse this way out to avoid such a possibility.

And it gave me a double take when I read:

"Like the old army surgeon looked at all other books as a pack of lies gotten by fops just to make noise in the world"

So apparently it turns out that in truth there are only two specific books that he enjoys reading, and does not seem to value reading or books on its own account nor does not seem in fact to desire the attainment of greater knowledge.

And we are told that he has aspirations to go into the church, but than on the other hand it is revealed that he has dreams for marching off into war, which seems quite a contrast to the image we are presented of him as well as seemingly to be starkly contrasting to the priestly calling.


message 15: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Let's see, Madame Bovary was published in 1856 (serial form); Stendhal published The Red and the Black in November 1830 (set in the period September 1826 until July 1831 according to Wikipedia?, i.e., beyond the publication date).

So far, I see similarities in the attraction to romance amidst unsatisfying marriages of two key female characters. Emma Rouault Bovary and Madame de Rênal. Ah, the disparities of reading literature out of historical order?


message 16: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Silver wrote: "...we are told that he has aspirations to go into the church, but then on the other hand it is revealed that he has dreams for marching off into war, which seems quite a contrast to the image we are presented of him as well as seemingly to be starkly contrasting to the priestly calling."

From Wikipedia: "The novel’s title denotes the contrasting uniforms of the Army and the Church. Early in the story, Julien Sorel realistically observes that under the Bourbon restoration it is impossible for a man of his plebian social class to distinguish himself in the army (as he might have done under Napoleon), hence only a Church career offers social advancement and glory." [Bold and italics added.]

Does it matter that the English title drops the French subtitle? I.e., from Wikipedia: "The novel’s composite full title, Le Rouge et le Noir, Chronique du XIXe siécle (The Red and the Black: A Chronicle of the 19th Century), indicates its two-fold literary purpose, a psychological portrait of the romantic protagonist, Julien Sorel, and an analytic, sociological satire of the French social order under the Bourbon Restoration (1814–30)."


message 17: by Silver (new)

Silver Madame de Renal was one of those women who might easily be called foolish after only a fortnight's acquaintance. Of the real world she had no knowledge, and her propensity for conversation was slight. With a faint touch of aloofness in her bearing, she paid but little attention to the gross persons in whose sphere chance had cast her life.

This is the second that it is mentioned that Madame de Renal may be perceived as being foolish by other people, and it seems that some emphasis is made upon her seemingly foolish nature And in some ways she is made to appear childlike in the descriptions of her running around in play with her children chasing after butterflies.

But I cannot help but to wonder if Stendhal means for her to be taken as such of if in his remarking upon others coming to that judgement of her, he is in fact mocking those who would think of Renal as being foolish.

Is Renal misjudged? And is Stendhal suggesting that it is those in their narrow/shallow mindedness that would proclaim Renal as a fool, truly themselves the foolish ones?

Though Renal may not be very worldly, and have not had a very sophisticated education, she seems to have a depth of feeling and perhaps there is more complexity to her than what at first might meet the eye.


message 18: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Silver wrote: "Madame de Renal was one of those women who might easily be called foolish after only a fortnight's acquaintance. Of the real world she had no knowledge, and her propensity for conversation was slig..."

I find myself rather liking this foolish soul -- She apparently had the common sense to avoid the advances of M. Valenod. Our initial introduction to her was out walking with her husband and being concerned about her rambunctious children. She is described as thirty and "still pretty." Apparently she manages a bevvy of servants fairly well. She has a good friend, albeit one a bit more savvy, but unable to transmit adequately her knowledge to M. de Renal. But she certainly is insisting on living dangerously -- and naively. One wonders what familial pressures trapped her with M. de Renal, who, at least in terms of material resources, seems a "good catch".


message 19: by MadgeUK (last edited May 03, 2012 08:47PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments The comment 'still pretty' is an interesting one because it shows that at this period of history women were thought to be 'past it' by that age. Madame Renal is 'the heiress to a large fortune' so this may be why M de Renal married her. Brought up in a convent, away from men of any sort, she had found those around her 'coarse' and 'money grubbing' until Julien appeared with his 'generosity of soul' and humanity. In him she thought she had found a kindred soul but this assessment may be due more to her naivety than to fact.

Stendhal comments that both Madame and Julien might have profited from reading more novels for their instruction or by listening to the lyrics sung at the Gymnase, a Music Hall opened in Paris at this time. This would have 'outlined for them the part to be played, showed them the model to copy'. Both novels and music hall songs of this period were about what Berlioz described as 'compromising situations, cold turpitudes, calculated affronts, sobs and agonies' but neither of the protaganists had so far had their innocence sullied by such worldly entertainment and 'everything goes slowly, everything happens by degress in the provinces: life is more natural'. [NB: Berlioz wrote for the grander Opera House and turned down opportunities to write for the music hall but Balzac did write for it - perhaps there is something of the music hall about the romance of Madame and Julien...]

It is also significant that the chapters of S&B are headed up with quotes from Byron's Don Juan, a popular, racy and scandalous account of other love affairs - perhaps one of the books Balzac thought the couple should be reading.


message 20: by Silver (new)

Silver Lily wrote: "I find myself rather liking this foolish soul -- She apparently had the common sense to avoid the advances of M. Valenod. Our initial introduction to her was out walking with her husband and being concerned about her rambunctious children.."

Since a comparison to Madame Bovary has been brought up, and it is true there situations are similar, I have to say that I do find Madame Renal to be by far more sympathetic than Emma who I found to be quite despicable.

I think part of the reason why is that it seems as if Madame Renal is motivated primarily by the desire for love. As well it seems she is making a genuine effort to resist her feelings for Julian. In spite of the fact that she is unhappy in her marriage and does not love her husband, her conscious suffers from her growing love from Julian, perhaps because of her strong religious upbringing.


message 21: by MadgeUK (last edited May 03, 2012 08:43PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Mention is made of the town of Verrieres owing its prosperity to the manufacture of 'printed calicoes known as Mulhouse stuffs', which were innovative textile designs. Here is some info about them:-

http://www.musee-impression.com/gb/mu...

Some of the designs here:-

http://www.musee-impression.com/gb/co...

Balzac may had been taking side-swipe against the restrictive practices of these calico manufacturers. Here is a contemporary report about their activities:-

http://coloriasto.blogspot.co.uk/2009...


message 22: by Lily (last edited May 04, 2012 06:54AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Madge -- those first two links don't work for me???

http://books.google.com/books?id=ZBcS...

Here is more on Mulhouse calicoes. Can you help us with Alsace versus Normandy versus Stendhal's story, Madge?

http://www.frontiermaterials.net/teac...

This PDF has information on the role of Mulhouse (a city?) in calico production. About page 79ff focuses on the chemist Alfred Paraf and the production of aniline black. A quick perusal gives one the sense of an industry and its technologies evolving between Britain, France, and the United States at that time in history. (It isn't really necessary to spend a lot of time reading the whole thing to get a sense of the "big deal" it all was, sort of like an article on semi-conductor miniaturization will be in 100 years.)


message 23: by Silver (new)

Silver I was a bit surprised by the incident with Elisa, as the impression given seemed to suggest that she was more or less the one whom proposed marriage to Julian.

Though I do not know if she directly asked him. It was known she wanted to marry him and he clearly had not been courting her, and Chalan tries to convince him he ought to accept her.

This seemed rather unconventional. Were the working class less formal about such things?


message 24: by MadgeUK (last edited May 05, 2012 12:54AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Madge -- those first two links don't work for me???

They are OK for me today - can others get them?

Can you help us with Alsace versus Normandy versus Stendhal's story, Madge?

Alsace is a region near to Germany which had suffered many wars over its territory. Thousands of soldiers were stationed there during the Napoleonic wars. The area is therefore more relevant to the weavers of Verrieres, which bordered Switzerland and Germany. The calico of the Alsace region was also of better quality than that of Normandy and yielded a better return: 'In the first decade of the century, the textile mills of Mulhouse began to mechanize the spinning and the calico printing process. Manchester-style mills began to characterize Mulhouse and its immediate region earlier than any other textile center in France. In the 1820s, the smaller town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines began to produce specialty hand-woven cottons for the Parisian market, thereby creating thousands of jobs for handloom weavers in the countryside, especially in the Vosges mountains.' [This may be the region Stendhal is writing about.] The region of Normandy is nearer to Paris (and England) and was nearer to the seat of monarchial and clerical power.

Because Alsace was an area which was fought over many times, the inhabitants suffered many changes of citizenship and fortunes which perhaps accounts for their devotion to money. At the very beginning of the novel we are told that the town of Verrieres owes its prosperity to calico and are several times reminded by Stendhal that 'the great phrase that decides everything at Verrieres YIELD A RETURN...by itself represents the habitual thought of more than three fourths of the inhabitants.' He writes that although a stranger arriving in the town may be 'beguiled by the beauty of the cool deep valleys', this is not what most concerns the inhabitants, 'yielding a return' is. We may therefore suppose that yielding returns affects every aspect of the lives of our characters, even when it comes to love. Presumably readers of the time would have been aware of the prosperity (and greed?) of the Alsace calico weavers and, of course, of the region's troubled history.

http://www.alsace-newyork.com/history

(Later in the century, when calico production was being affected by overseas producers in the UK and US, there were insurrections by weavers demanding better wages and it may be significant that it was a Mayor of a town who ruthlessly called in the troops and ordered them to fire on the populace.)


message 25: by MadgeUK (last edited May 05, 2012 12:09AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Were the working class less formal about such things?

I think it was more the case that she had come into money and 'money talks'. She now had the self confidence to propose to Julien, who had been a childhood sweeheart.


message 26: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments BTW Alsace was the province of France where the Jews had been the most persecuted and credit was given to Napoleon for giving them 'liberte, egalite, fraternite':-

http://www.napoleon-series.org/ins/we...


message 27: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "Were the working class less formal about such things?

I think it was more the case that she had come into money and 'money talks'. She now had the self confidence to propose to Julien, who had be..."


I would have just thought that for a woman to ask a man to marry her at that time would have made her seem rather forward and would not be generally socially acceptable.


message 28: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Maybe her self confidence was misplaced and that was the reason she was turned down?


message 29: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "Maybe her self confidence was misplaced and that was the reason she was turned down?"

Well I think the reason she was turned down is because Julian does not appear to have even the remotest interest in her, and there is the fact that he is studying to become a priest. Somehow I just do not think his interests and ambitions lay in the direction of marrying a lady's maid, considering he was ready to reject the job altogether at the mere thought of having to sit at the same table and eat with the servants. He is very proud and seems to have a superior view of himself, looking down upon others no matter their social position.


message 30: by Maria (new)

Maria Silver wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "Maybe her self confidence was misplaced and that was the reason she was turned down?"

Well I think the reason she was turned down is because Julian does not appear to have even the..."


I get the feeling that Julien is not interested in any type of love. His only love is for the power and prestige like Napoleon. I think I was more surprised that Elisa took to gossiping about why Julien turned her away to the cure(s) and that they took it to their patrons.

As for the way Stendhal describes the women in general, I find it similar to The Mysteries of Udolfo all women being foolish. Than when it comes time to execute or convince the man, they are able to do it by stroking the mans ego.


message 31: by Lynnm, Moderator (last edited May 06, 2012 01:09PM) (new)

Lynnm | 2986 comments Mod
I'm also fascinated by Julien. I think that it's too easy to criticize him. Yes, he is a bit hypocritical at times. Yes, he dreams a lot about power, glory, and money.

But at the same time, I think that he's a bit of a contradiction. He is only 19 and has lived a rather sheltered life. He wants more, but doesn't know how to go about it, and for the most part, doesn't really have good role models around him. His father is shrewd, but all about money. His brothers seem rather brutish.

He tries to learn from the couple of men who have book learning: the old Surgeon-Major and the cure. Yes, he has three favorite books, but he did read others. (And we all usually have a few books that speak to us the most.) At one point, he talks about furthering his studies.

I think underneath it all, his intentions are good.

He knows the false men around him: the mayor and all of his wealthy buddies. And he understands that they are profiting off of the work and misery of the poor.

Of course, I could be proven wrong since we aren't that far into the story.... :-)

And certain things about him do ring false. For example, he can memorize and recite the Bible word for word in Latin, but he's speaking in a dead language, and memorizing doesn't mean that he understands or is acting on the words in the Bible.

Also, the cure doubts Julien's intentions, and worries about him taking on a religious order.

And he's ambitious. So much so that he doesn't understand the feelings of those around him.


message 32: by Lynnm, Moderator (new)

Lynnm | 2986 comments Mod
More rambling thoughts:

What struck me the most was Stendhal's emphasis on the money grubbing of the men in the town, and really the town as a whole. It sucks out the life and beauty of the town, and of course the intellect of the people. (At least in my translation, Stendhal's negative conclusions on capitalism and industry are put in italics.)

Stendhal talks about the noise, the lack of deep thoughts in the Mayor, the obsession with money, the artificial beauty (the Mayor builds walls around his gardens), the profits at the poor's expense, etc.

At first I thought that Julien was meant to be the opposite of the Mayor and the other men. But right now, he's also interested in money and power. But as I said above, he also sees through these men.


message 33: by Lynnm, Moderator (new)

Lynnm | 2986 comments Mod
MadgeUK wrote: "I think perhaps it is the French style of writing which we find 'awkward' because we are more used to the Victorian style. We are, as it were, reading the novel and hearing a French accent:). "

I agree, Madge. When I read French novels from this period, I always feel as if the writing is awkward, but I think the French style of writing at that time is different from the English style of the same period.

Once I got into the novel, the awkwardness went away. It is much like reading any novel from the past - you have to get into the rhythm of the writing.


message 34: by Silver (new)

Silver Lynnm wrote: "At first I thought that Julien was meant to be the opposite of the Mayor and the other men. But right now, he's also interested in money and power. But as I said above, he also sees through these men.
.."


I am not entirely certain I agree with the idea that Julian sees through them. As particular in the case of Madame Renal it seems frequently he misrepresents/misinterprets their actions based upon his preconceived notions of what he expects such people to act like. He already has an established judgement of what the upper class should act like, and thus he sees everything they do as further confirmation supporting his views, without seeking to gain any true understanding of what may be their motives behind their actions. So while some of his opinions and judgements might have truth to them, on the other hand it seems also that he simply sees what he wants to see.


message 35: by Lily (last edited May 06, 2012 04:48PM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments I haven't decided yet whether Julian seems "real" -- that is, is he an ambitious, smart, somewhat idealistic kid raised in a family with some fairly shrewd rough and ready males (one wonders what the mother was like) with a chip on his shoulder towards social inferiority who is being given (and seeks out) some rather interesting chances to overcome his naivety? Or is he a more a contradictory character created by Stendhal, not necessarily in true realism, but as an amalgam of several stereotypes, perhaps to some extent to make points about French society at the time?

I lean sometimes one way and sometimes another.


message 36: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Once I got into the novel, the awkwardness went away. It is much like reading any novel from the past - you have to get into the rhythm of the writing.

Yes, this is why I post background stuff about the history and surroundings because I have found that it helps me if, in my mind's eye, I put the characters in their place, much as happens in films. I am, for instance, imagining Madame Renal in some of the Mulhouse calico patterns which one of the links showed:).


message 37: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) | 826 comments Mod
Silver wrote: "Lily wrote: "I find myself rather liking this foolish soul -- She apparently had the common sense to avoid the advances of M. Valenod. Our initial introduction to her was out walking with her husba..."

There is an apt description in ch.7: "If she had received the slightest education she would have been remarkable for her naturalness and liveliness of mind. But because of her status as an heiress she had been brought up by nuns who were passionate devotees of the "Sacred Heart of Jesus"...Mme de Renal had enough native good sense to forget very quickly all that had been taught her at the convent,because of its absurdity; but she put nothing in its place, and ended by knowing nothing."

Although 30 and the mother of 3 boys, Mme de Renal is quite naive, especially in matters of love. She falls hard for a beautiful young man, whose beauty hides a somewhat damaged and very calculating soul.

While initially inclined to like this apparently bookish and certainly downtrodden young man I am finding it increasingly difficult as he toys with Mme de Renal.


message 38: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Yes, I find I have sympathy with the idea of Mme de Renal toying with him but no sympathy for him toying with her because I find his motives more suspect.


message 39: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "Yes, I find I have sympathy with the idea of Mme de Renal toying with him but no sympathy for him toying with her because I find his motives more suspect."

I do not see Mme Renal as truly toying with Julian. I think she is too innocent and naive for that. She does not strike one as deceptive or manipulative. But I think her feelings are genuine as she struggles with herself, over her feelings for him.


message 40: by Kim (new)

Kim (KimMR) | 317 comments I also think that Mme de Renal is not toying with Julien. She genuinely loves him, poor, silly woman that she is.

At a distance from my initial feelings of sympathy towards Julien, I conclude that he is calculating, manipulative and generally unlikeable. In some ways he reminds me a bit of Georges Duroy in Bel-Ami, another character I started out feeling sorry for, but who turned into a monster consumed by his own ambition.


message 41: by Karel (new)

Karel | 86 comments At first I feel sorry for poor Julien, mistreated and misunderstood by everyone who should love him. But now, I just despise him. He has this gigantic ego that bruises so easily. And I agree with the one who said that he feels no love for anyone. I think that the military career was a good way of obtaining honor in the times of Napoleon, but in the time of Julien, his only way to power is the church, so he choose this, although I dont think he believes in religion, only power and glory. Oh, and sorry if my english is awkward, it is not my mother language, but I am trully enjoying all your comments :)


message 42: by SusannaW (last edited May 07, 2012 03:05PM) (new)

SusannaW (SusannaUK) | 42 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Stendhal was known for his cynicism and 'off beat' humour. He has also been described as 'quixotic'. As a half-caste in a time of conspicuous racial prejudice he had good reason to look at French s..."

Where did you get the notion Henri Beyle (Stendhal) was "half-caste"? His father's family was pretty rooted in Grenoble & his mother's family was Italian. Are you sure you're not thinking of Alexandre Dumas?


message 43: by Lily (last edited May 07, 2012 05:28PM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Much as I rather dislike Julien, I think an excerpt on The Life of Henri Brulard in the Norton edition is giving me some insight on the character and what Stendhal is trying to do with him on commenting upon France of the time. I'll try to say more if I figure that out; for now, I only recommend to others if you have access. It is in the section entitled "Stendhal on Stendhal." The material doesn't strike me as containing spoilers, but it does have insights on the world views that seem to inform TR&TB.

Example (spoiler feature used to shorten post appearance):(view spoiler)


message 44: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments Another example that "feels" relevant, but which I can't connect yet:

Stendhal was "raised exclusively by [his] grandfather;" the mother he dearly loved had died when he was seven. He speaks of his grandfather's contact with Voltaire and that it was special for him to be allowed to touch the bust of Voltaire in his grandfather's study. Still:

"And yet, as far back as I can remember, I have always tremendously disliked Voltaire's writings; they seemed childish to me. I can honestly say that I never like anything about this great man. At the time, I couldn't understand that he was France's legislator and apostle, its Martin Luther."


message 45: by MadgeUK (last edited May 07, 2012 09:04PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments There is a psychological condition named Stendhal's Syndrome:-

'In 1817 Stendhal reportedly was overcome by the cultural richness of Florence he encountered when he first visited the Tuscan city. As he described in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio:

"As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart (that same symptom which, in Berlin, is referred to as an attack of the nerves); the well-spring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground."

The condition was diagnosed and named in 1979 by Italian psychiatrist Dr. Graziella Magherini, who had noticed similar psychosomatic conditions (racing heart beat, nausea and dizziness) amongst first-time visitors to the city."

Susannah: Thanks for the correction. I can't remember where I got the impression that Stendhal was a mulatto.


message 46: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I suppose that at this stage of the novel we could describe Julien as a 'callow youth'. Perhaps he will improve.


message 47: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2576 comments MadgeUK wrote: "I suppose that at this stage of the novel we could describe Julien as a 'callow youth'. Perhaps he will improve."

What I think is interesting, why did Stendahl give us the character of a callow youth? He could have used a different characterization. Why or how will this one serve his ends? What are those ends?


message 48: by MadgeUK (last edited May 08, 2012 01:23AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments The novel may turn out to be a Bildungsroman.

http://www.victorianweb.org/genre/had...


message 49: by SusannaW (last edited May 08, 2012 03:03AM) (new)

SusannaW (SusannaUK) | 42 comments In terms of social commentary and Julien's path in the novel, there's one important thing that many English readers might not be aware of - I'm not sure if any of the translations mention it in footnotes etc - something called 'le culte de Napoléon'. It's basically a glorification of Napoleon as the incarnation of Revolutionary ideas and champion of "free people" - Napoleon opened up doors for young ambitious men from modest backgrounds to better themselves, albeit by rather limited routes, the Army & the Church.

Julien is v much a young man of his time - this is set in the years leading up to the 1830 July Revolution (any one watching François Hollande's Presidential victory speech last Sunday would have seen the monument in the Place de la Bastille to the July 1830 Revolution). The start of the demise of the Bourbon Restoration (monarchy) with its rigid social class structures & lack of social mobility... So nostalgia for Napoleonic ideas would have been fairly prevalent at the time - but the issue is very much where the target of the satirical pen lies...there's an awful lot to happen in this novel... Stendhal is all about how the individual relates to society & there's a lot of detailed politics hidden in his writing & psychological study. I envy you guys reading it for the first time, it's one of my favourite novels - so much in it.


message 50: by MadgeUK (last edited May 08, 2012 05:25AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Yes, the cult of Napoleon Bonaparte is certainly a factor in the novel and Stendhal himself was one of those cultists. Julien is a secret Bonapartist, one of those who supported, Louis-Philippe's July Revolution in 1830 which briefly established him as monarch before he was arrested by the Bourbons and exiled to Switzerland and England. Louis-Philippe Napoleon was at first known as the 'Citizen King' because of his liberal policies, which were similar to Bonaparte's, but he did not live up to his name and he was deposed in the 1848 revolution in favour of his nine-year-old grandson, Philippe, Comte de Paris but the French National Assembly later declared Prince Louis Napoleon (not Louis-Philippe!) President and he later became President for life and then declared himself Emperor, which upset a great many Bonapartists (including Beethoven!) who were fierce Republicans.

It is an extremely complex part of French history not least because of the number of Bonaparte's involved! Another struggle of the Red and the Black, Right and Left, another turn of the roulette wheel. Julien's descriptions of his conquest of Madame Renal are couched in terms of battle snd this reflects not only his own struggles but those which were going on in French society at the time.


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The Readers Review: Literature from 1800 to 1910

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Books mentioned in this topic

Madame Bovary (other topics)
The Red and the Black (other topics)
Bel-Ami (other topics)