The Red and the Black Book By Stendhal (PDF - Summary - Review - Online Reading - Download)

The Red and the Black Novel by Stendhal is a two-volume historical psychological, published in 1830. It narrates the attempts of a young provincial to rise socially beyond his modest education through a combination of talent, hard work, deceit, and hypocrisy. Ultimately, he allows his passions to betray him.

The complete title of the novel, Le Rouge et le Noir: Chronique du XIXe siècle (The Red and Black: A Chronicle of the 19th Century), indicates its double literary purpose as a psychological portrait of the romantic protagonist, Julien Sorel and analytical. , a sociological satire of the French social order under the Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830). In English, Le Rouge et le Noir is translated in various ways such as Red and Black, Scarlet and Black, and Red and Black, without the subtitle.

The title is taken to refer to the tension between the clerical (black) and secular (red) interests of the protagonist, but this interpretation is only one of many.

Book Details
Text: Le Rouge et le Noir at Wikisource
Pages: 2 vol
Original title: Le Rouge et le Noir
LC Class: PQ2435.R72 H35 1989
Genres: Novel, Bildungsroman, Psychological Fiction

Book Summary
The handsome and ambitious Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble provincial origins. He soon realizes that success can only be achieved by adopting the subtle code of hypocrisy by which society operates, and begins to advance through deception and self-interest. His triumphant career takes him to the heart of the glamorous Parisian society, on the road conquering the gentle and married Madame de Rênal and the arrogant Mathilde. But then Julien commits an unexpected and devastating crime and causes his own fall. The Red and the Black is a vivid and satirical representation of French society after Waterloo, plagued with corruption, greed, and weariness, and Julien, the cold explorer whose Machiavellian campaign is weakened by his own emotions, is one of the most intriguing characters of European Literature.

Book Club Questions

Book Review
From his earliest childhood, he had experienced moments of ecstasy. Then, he would dream with delight that one day he would meet the beautiful women of Paris, and call his attention to some famous act. Why shouldn't he be loved by one of them as Bonaparte, although still poor, had been loved by the brilliant lady of Beauharnais? For many years, just an hour of Julien's life passed without him telling himself that Bonaparte, a dark lieutenant without money, had become the master of the world with his sword. This idea comforted him for his sufferings, which he thought was great, and redoubled his happiness when he had it.

The construction of the church and the judgments of the Justice of the Peace suddenly illuminated him; He came up with an idea that distressed him for a few weeks and grabbed him with the overwhelming force that belonged to the first idea with which a passionate nature believes he was inspired.

'When Bonaparte made people talk about him, France was in danger of invasion; A military talent was necessary and fashionable. Today, 40-year-old priests are seen with stipends of one hundred thousand francs, that is, three times more than Napoleon's famous generals. They need people behind them to support them. Look at this justice of the peace, so sensible, a man so excellent and honest so far, so established, that he has dishonored himself for fear of offending a young thirty-year-old cleric. It is necessary to be a priest.

On one occasion, in the midst of this new piety, and after having studied theology for two years, he was betrayed by a sudden eruption of fire that consumed his soul. In the house of M. Chélan, during a dinner for the clergy whom the good priest presented him as a tuition prodigy, he found himself fervently praising Napoleon. He covered his chest with his right arm, pretending he had dislocated while moving a pine log and carried him in this annoying position for two months. After this corporal penance, he was acquitted. This was the young man of nineteen, but apparently so fragile that one would have taken him for no more than seventeen years, who, carrying his small package under his arm, entered the magnificent church of Verrières.

He found it gloomy and lonely. To celebrate a festival, all the windows of the church had been covered with crimson cloth. The sun's rays shone to produce a dim, very pious and imposing light. Julien shivered. Only in the church, he settled in the bank that looked the best. He carried the arms of M. de Rênal.

At the payer's desk, Julien noticed a fragment of printed paper, extended to be read. He directed his eyes to him and saw:

Details of the execution and the last moments of Louis Jenrel, executed in Besancon, in the ...

The paper was torn. On the other hand, they could be seen as the first words of a line, which were: The first step.

- Who could have put this paper here? Julien said. Poor devil, he added with a sigh, their names end up like mine ... and crumpled the paper.

As he left, Julien thought he saw blood beside the holy water pile: it was holy water that had spilled: the reflection of the red shutters that covered the windows gave him the appearance of blood.

Finally, Julien was ashamed of his secret terror.

- Am I a coward! He said to himself: To arms!

This phrase, so often repeated in the stories of battles of the Major Surgeon, represented the heroic for Julien. He got up and walked quickly to M. de Rênal's house.

Despite these good resolutions, from the moment he saw him twenty steps away, he was captured with overwhelming shyness. The iron fence was open; to him, it seemed magnificent, and it was up to him to enter.

About The Author
Henri Marie Beyle, known through his writing as Stendhal, was born in Grenoble in 1783 and educated there at the École Centrale. A cousin offered him a post in the Ministry of War, and from 1800 he followed Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy, Germany, Russia, and Austria. In between wars, he spent his time in Paris drawing rooms and theatres.

After the fall of Napoleon, he retired to Italy, adopted his pseudonym and started to write books on Italian painting, Haydn and Mozart, and travels in Italy. In 1821 the Austrian police expelled him from the country, and on returning to Paris he finished his book, De Lamour. This was followed by Racine et Shakespeare, a defense of Romantic literature. Le Rouge et le noir was his second novel, and he also produced or began three others, including La Chartreuse de Parme and Lucien Leuwen. None of his published works was received with any great understanding during his lifetime.

Beyle was appointed Consul at Civitavecchia after the 1830 revolution, but his health deteriorated and six years later he was back in Paris and beginning a Life of Napoleon. In 1841 he was once again recalled for reasons of illness, and in the following year suffered a fatal stroke. Various autobiographical works, Journal, Souvenirs de l’egotisme and La Vie de Henri Brulard, were published later, as his fame grew.

Roger Gard was educated at Abbotsholme School, Derbyshire, and at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Before his death in 2000 he was Emeritus Reader in English at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. Among his publications are books on Henry James, Jane Austen and the teaching of fiction in schools. He also translated Alfred de Vigny’s The Servitude and Grandeur of Arms and edited Henry James’s A Landscape Painter and Other Tales, The Jolly Corner and Other Tales and a selection of his literary criticism, The Critical Muse, for Penguin Classics.


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