The Red and the Black

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Overview

Handsome and ambitious, Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble peasant origins and make something of his life. To do this, he realizes he must adopt the code of hypocrisy by which society operates, achieving advancement through deceit and self-interest. His triumphant career takes him from the provinces to glamorous Paris society, along the way conquering the beautiful, gentle Madame de Renal, unhappy wife of his employer, and then the haughty, aristocratic Mathilde, engaged to another man. But he ...
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The Red and the Black (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Handsome and ambitious, Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble peasant origins and make something of his life. To do this, he realizes he must adopt the code of hypocrisy by which society operates, achieving advancement through deceit and self-interest. His triumphant career takes him from the provinces to glamorous Paris society, along the way conquering the beautiful, gentle Madame de Renal, unhappy wife of his employer, and then the haughty, aristocratic Mathilde, engaged to another man. But he brings about his own downfall when he commits an unexpected, devastating crime.

The Red and the Black is a lively, satirical picture of French Restoration society after Waterloo, riddled with corruption, greed and ennui. The complex, sympathetic portrayal of Julien, the cold exploiter whose Machiavellian campaign is undercut by his own emotions, makes him Stendhal's most brilliant and human creation, and one of the greatest characters in European literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Burton Raffel’s] exciting new translation of The Red and the Black blasts Stendhal into the twenty-first century.”
—Salon.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140447644
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Pages: 607
  • Sales rank: 360,992
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet 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 l’amour. 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.

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Read an Excerpt

 From his earliest childhood he had experienced moments of rapture. Then, he would dream with delight that he would one day encounter the beautiful women of Paris, and would compel their attention by some famous deed. Why should he not be loved by one of them as Bonaparte, while still poor, had been loved by the brilliant Mme de Beauharnais? For many years, scarcely an hour of Julien's life passed without his telling himself that Bonaparte, an obscure and penniless lieutenant, had made himself the master of the world with his sword. This idea consoled him for his sufferings, which he thought great, and redoubled his happiness when he had any.

The construction of the church and the Justice of the Peace's judgements suddenly enlightened him; and idea came to him which made him distraught for some weeks,  and seized hold of him with the overwhelming force belonging to the first idea with which a passionate nature believe itself to have been inspired.

'When Bonaparte made people talk about him, France was in danger of invasion; military talent was necessary and fashionable. Today one sees 40-year-old priests with stipends of a hundred thousand francs, that is to say, 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, such a fine upstanding man until now, so established, who has dishonoured himself for fear of offending a young clergyman of thirty. It is necessary to be a priest.'

On one occasion, in the midst of this new piety, and after he had already been studying theology for two years, he was betrayed into a sudden eruption of the fire that consumed his soul. At M. Chélan's dwelling, during a dinner for the clergy to whom the good curé was presenting him as a prodigy of tuition, he found himself fervidly praising Napoleon. He bound his right arm across his chest, pretending it had been dislocated in moving a pine trunk, and carried it in this irksome position for two months. After this bodily penance, he absolved himself. This was the young man of nineteen - but so seemingly frail that one would have taken him for no more than seventeen - who, carrying his little parcel under his arm, entered the magnificent church of Verrières.

He found it sombre and solitary. To mark a festival all the church windows had been covered with crimson cloth. The sun's rays shone through to produce a dim light, most pious and imposing. Julien shivered. Alone in the church, he established himself in the pew that had the finest appearance. It bore the arms of M. de Rênal.

 On the payer desk Julien noticed a fragment of printed paper, spread out as though to be read. He directed his eyes towards it and saw:

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

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

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

Leaving, Julien thought he saw blood next to the holy water stoup - it was holy water that had been spilled: the reflection from the red blinds covering the windows gave it the appearance of blood.

Eventually Julien was ashamed of his secret terror.

- Am I a coward! he said to himself, To arms!

This phrase, so often repeasted in the Surgeon-major's accounts of battles, represented the heroic for Julien. He raised himself up and walked rapidly towards M. de Rênal's house.

  In spite of these fine resolves, from the moment he saw it twenty paces away, he was seized with an overpowering timidity. The iron grille was open; to him it seemed magnificent; and it was up to him to enter in.

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Table of Contents

Chronology of the Life of Henri Marie Beyle vii
Introduction xi
Selected Further Reading xxvi
Notes on the Text and Translation xxvii
The Red and The Black 1
Appendix A Stendhal's Epigraphs and Quotations 533
Appendix B French Currency and Distances in the 1820s 534
Notes 537
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Reading Group Guide

A Major New Translation

The Red and the Black, Stendhal's masterpiece, is the story of Julien Sorel, a young dreamer from the provinces, fueled by Napoleonic ideals, whose desire to make his fortune sets in motion events both mesmerizing and tragic. Sorel's quest to find himself, and the doomed love he encounters along the way, are delineated with an unprecedented psychological depth and realism. At the same time, Stendhal weaves together the social life and fraught political intrigues of post–Napoleonic France, bringing that world to unforgettable, full-color life. His portrait of Julien and early-nineteenth-century France remains an unsurpassed creation, one that brilliantly anticipates modern literature.

Neglected during its time, The Red and the Black has assumed its rightful place as one of the world's great books, and Burton Raffel's extraordinary new translation, coupled with an enlightening Introduc-tion by Diane Johnson, helps it shine more brightly than ever before.

1. Does it matter whether or not Stendhal's detailed, vivid, deeply and fully realized 'history' is accurate? It is brilliantly presented, massively marshaled; characters and action ring powerfully true. But is it trustworthy?

2. Julien not only surrenders quite readily to the death penalty: he fairly embraces it. Is this, like so many of his actions throughout the book, yet more reckless romanticism? Or is it in some way different and deeper? Does the earlier part of the book fit with/lead up to this ending? Or, as has sometimes been suggested, is the ending either tacked on or, still worse, melodramatic?

3. Stendhal's France is portrayed–at everylevel– as an immensely materialistic society. In the final analysis, is Père Sorel either more or less materialistic than the Marquis de La Mole? Would this social portrait have been different if Stendhal had been a native American and was writing about the United States?

4. Mathilde de La Mole and Madame de Rênal are almost startlingly unlike, in virtually all respects. Yet both of them are passionately in love with Julien Sorel, a man who is completely unlike either of them or their expectations and dreams for themselves. Does Julien earn their love? Does he deserve it?

5. Julien Sorel hungers for epic success, and very nearly achieves it. We learn that he has had a grindingly difficult experience of lower bourgeois existence as well as the Church. He has had an almost equally chilling experience of both high bourgeois and aristocratic life. Where–if anywhere–could he possibly have found himself at home?

6. Julien Sorel's weaknesses are perhaps easier to see than his strengths, which tend to be simple and basic. Stendhal repeatedly notes that Julien does not have a first-rate mind. (Stendhal himself had exactly the same astonishing memory he gives to Julien.) In The Red and the Black, do simple, basic virtues succumb to or prevail over more complex and rigorously intellectual capabilities? In any case, Stendhal is emphatically not a utopian. But what image of a good, or perhaps merely a better, society finally emerges from his book?

7. The Church plays an enormous role in the entire novel, much of it decidedly negative. But does the large roster of Church officials, ranging from very high to very low, support the frequently heard claim that Stendhal was fiercely and fundamentally anticlerical?

8. Napoleon, too, figures hugely in the novel (though not as an active character), but this is not simply because he has had an enormous and continuing influence on Julien Sorel. Napoleon's entire career, and especially his long reign as ruler of France, is subjected to intense examination, and from many different perspectives. Again, it has often been said that Stendhal was more or less a Napoleon worshiper. Is this true?

9. Stendhal himself had been a soldier–he had endured, and survived, the Grand Army's devastating retreat from Moscow. Many of the novel's characters are or have been military men; military issues are frequently discussed and debated. In The Red and the Black, is there a clearly cohesive, or even a straightforward, view of war and either its advocates or its critics? Or is Stendhal here, too, attempting a broader and multivalenced portrayal than critics sometimes seem to recognize?

10. For roughly half a century, Balzac was virtually the only significant figure in French literature to express appreciation of and deep respect for Stendhal's fiction. This is plainly not an accident. What makes these two novelists similar? Dissimilar? Why did the twentieth century see an enormous rise in Stendhal's literary reputation and influence, exactly as he himself had predicted?

11. Love, in all its many aspects, plainly fascinated Stendhal the novelist, as it clearly fascinated him as a man. Yet it has often been argued that, properly considered, Stendhal (born in 1783) was not in fact a Romantic. How does the evidence proffered in The Red and the Black support or contradict this argument?

12. There can be no doubt that Stendhal finds social relationships and the customs and rules that regulate them to be of the very highest interest. Is this either an essentially French or an essentially nineteenth-century preoccupation? Are there twentieth-century novelists, in France or elsewhere, who share Stendhal's profound interest in manners?

13. The Marquis de La Mole is about as fully and fairly drawn as any character in the history of fiction. We see him magnificent, we see him base. He can be open-minded and generous; he can be closed-minded, autocratic, and even niggardly. We see him love, and we see him hate. What does Stendhal intend us to understand from this remarkable portrait?

14. Stendhal's evocations of place ('descriptions' would surely be too meager and inadequate a word to describe them) are dazzling. He evokes with the same glowing three-dimensionality countryside, towns, cities, and entire countries. In The Red and the Black, place receives very nearly as much authorial attention as does character, even though it is fair to say that Stendhal is as sensitive and attuned to his characters as any fiction writer in history. Why does place receive such large attention? Is it deserved? Is it necessary? Is it perhaps excessive? Or is it exactly right for Stendhal's purposes?

15. Stendhal's style– the way he writes–is almost magically effective. The very rhythms and shapes of his sentences help him to evoke the fullest possible shades of meaning. What stylistic role is played by Stendhal's choice of individual words? What kinds of words does he favor? What kinds does he shun? Is he consistent in such matters? Who–if anyone–does his style seem to resemble, in any significant way(s)?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2008

    A reviewer

    My book group decided to read 'The Red and the Black,' and I thought it would be fun to read it in French, side-by-side with an English translation for those spots in which my college French failed me. My first disappointment with this edition was the skimpiness of the endnotes -- a total of 12 for a 532-page book. Unless one is a scholar of French history, this is a book that is much easier to appreciate with some background on the politics of the times. I was shocked, however, by the discovery of some glaring errors in the translation. On p. 17, for instance, 'quatre-vingts' (eighty) is translated as 'ninety', while on p. 34, 'dix-neuf' (nineteen) is translated as 'eighteen.' Also, on p. 45, the translated text states that Mme. Renard is taking a walk with M. Renard, while the original French text states that she is taking a walk with M. Valenod! There are even some sentences in the French text that do not appear in the English text. Where were the proofreaders? It is quite possible that the rest of this translation is flawless, but at this point I gave up in frustration and went in search of a different translation.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2002

    New translation of brilliant classic

    Such disparate souls as Richard Posner and Al Gore have named this as one of their favorite books---but you should read it anyway, as Stendhal's wit, psychology, and narrative verve make reading him unlike reading anyone else. I've not finished the new Penguin translation (much needed), and I think that the Slater translation for Oxford catches the style better; but the notes in the Penguin are interesting, as is the intro, and Gard is certainly better than was Richard Howard with his sloppy translation of The Charterhouse of Parma. No one who enjoys 19th-c. fiction should miss this book, and no one who thinks he doesn't should make up his mind before reading it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Read me!

    Red the color of dispare.black the time when ages pass.red the blood of angry men. Black the color of dark nights!:) chse

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2007

    True literature...

    One discovers true compassion of literature after reading a piece of art such as this novel. Breathtaking in suspense of the actions the characters take.... I was truly shocked at the outcome of the book yet it was a beautiful closure. This book will have you truly feeling deep compassion in the motives and outcomes of each individual character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2004

    makes you think

    I loved this book.It made me apriciate the freedom of choice that I can practice every day. It's hard for Julien's ambition not to rub off on you. Julien is not the typical heroe he makes more mistakes it seems than he triumphs. He moves up in the world through his education and itelligence, very much the same as it is today exept in post revolution France this was an uncommon and great achievement. Julien is a complex charector who shows traits of a real human. The novel is deeply romantic. Julien will rise to the top only to be thrown down by an inevidable misfortune and a rash descision, the tragic flaw which brings about Julien's downfall. Though tragic, the ending is beutiful and unexpected. So that when you close the last page of the book, you have to just sit there and think for a while,until one word comes to mind 'wow'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2002

    OPTIME!!

    I loved this book. As far as I am concerned its one of the best books ever, second only to Hesse's 'Narcissus and Goldmund'. Stendahl has a way of explaining life as it really is a divine comedy with an unhappy ending.

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