Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Is this thing on?

I admit it: I fell behind, got distracted. But I'm back on schedule, slightly ahead even, and planning to finish in the next couple days.

I'd wanted to pick up on Rachel's comment that "Mme de Renal's handling of her husband was comical and ingenious and WAY cleverer than she should have been capable of." I completely agree! But where does the cleverness come from? Not books. It's something that arises from the force and purity of her love?

I'm thoroughly enjoying how Stendhal presents Paris society, the petty power games, the wars of words, how people fall in and out of favour (I'm reminded of the movie Ridicule — did anyone see it?).

(Mathilde is worshipful of Rousseau, while Julien calls Rousseau a fool and, essentially, a hypocrite (B2,ch8,p273). What's that all about?)

"We no longer have genuine passions, in the nineteenth century. That's why there's so much boredom, here in France. We do the most incredibly cruel things but without cruelty."

I did fall back on the Spark Notes, to make sure I wasn't missing anything. They did reinforce the sense that all actions are taken not for themselves but for their approval (eg, Julien considers Mathilde only after the respected academician sings her praises). Also, they did help make clear Julien's method, that all his actions are conceived as a military strategy (only without having much understanding of strategy), his whole life is a battle, and in this "small" way he continues to try to emulate his hero, Napoleon. ("It's clear that Julien had no experience of life; he had not even read novels.")

Mathilde, on the other hand, had read quite a lot, and things she shouldn't. Most descriptions of passion she dismisses as frivolous love. But she sees herself as Marguerite de Valois.

These two lovers are so intent on conforming to their respective models, they're lacking for genuine passion. All their knowledge and ideas and ambitions seem bound to end in disappointment, and they keep upping the stakes to keep it exciting.

Mme de Renal certainly does look better when cast against the light of Paris. Julien often compares them, and Mme shines superiorly. And I wonder — is it because of her naivete, the convent-upbringing, the living in the provinces, that makes her seem a better — purer — person? Is it my age, that I sympathize with her, that I feel critical of the young adults, careless, fickle, without the strength of character they purport to admire?

Is anyone still reading? Where are you?

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just returning to this after an aborted attempt when you first started to schedule. Not the work -- just too busy and I had the notion of reading this in French. What was I thinking about how much time I had? Sorry I haven't kept up (again) but I have been reading the interesting posts. Maybe I'll make enough progress to post something before the official end of the schedule!

Posted anonymously by Cam. Blogger isn't let me sign in for some reason this morning...

8:05 AM  
Blogger SFP said...

I finished and I loved it. I'll try to come up with something more than that to say a little later. I hope those who've put it aside will pick it back up again.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Isabella said...

I took a break from the French, and when I was ready for it again discovered that my cohabitant, who'd been reading along, went and lost my copy, which interrupted my drive a bit.

I'm in the thick of the political intrigue right now, which I'll have to look at more carefully, but after I find out how it ends.

8:59 AM  
Blogger amcorrea said...

Travel, family, and the holidays put me out of commission (I haven't had the wherewithal to even do anything on my own blog), but I finally bought a copy yesterday (definitely taking advantage of the bookstores here) and hope to catch up in the next couple of weeks as I head back to Colombia...

10:52 AM  
Blogger Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

I apologize but after a few aborted attempts I just couldn't get into it. Perhaps the mood wasn't right? I'm not sure. I hope to go back to it sometime in 2007.

Heather
www.thelibraryladder.blogspot.com

1:17 PM  
Blogger nessie said...

I disagree with that assesment of Mme de renal. Both of the women suffer from BOREDOM (note that both have chapters in their respective books named that way). Both lead a boring life with Mme R an ignorant and Mathilde intellectually somewhat more stimulating. Had they been in reverse positions the women I feel would have acted in similar ways. Both fell in love because of a third factor, something apart from Julien. christ, only when he SHOOTS her does she fall back in love...

My review is coming. The draft is done... waiting for may editor M to finish correcting. Sigh! More fighting...

11:40 PM  
Blogger nessie said...

ok guys I finally did it - my post on red & black along with my two cents... its all there! I'm waiting....
;)

10:44 PM  
Blogger amcorrea said...

Julien often compares them, and Mme shines superiorly. And I wonder — is it because of her naivete, the convent-upbringing, the living in the provinces, that makes her seem a better — purer — person? Is it my age, that I sympathize with her, that I feel critical of the young adults, careless, fickle, without the strength of character they purport to admire?

Nessie, I'll make sure to read your review as soon as I finish the book (don't want to run into any more spoilers than I already have--which is my fault for being so far behind schedule). I don't think Isabella's perception and your assertion of their boredom are necessarily mutually exclusive. At this point (and granted, I'm only in Ch. 14 of Pt. II), I tend to think the same as Isabella here. Perhaps because it seems that Madame de Renal's choices were so much more limited than Mathilde's--lack of education, getting married so young, etc. She has a genuine moral crisis because of her affair with Julien. I haven't yet seen much about Mathilde that is genuine... Of course, that may all change as soon as I read futher...

3:38 PM  

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