Thursday, January 25, 2007


Did you like it?

To borrow a question from The Modern Library Reading Guide: Why did the twentieth century see an enormous rise in Stendhal’s literary reputation and influence?

What do you interpret "the red" and "the black" as symbolizing?

Nessie has just posted a review of the book that touches on some major points but without going into too much detail.

The question that lingers with me is what were these characters' motivations — it starts with boredom, a let's-see-what-happens, but later? Do you think, in the end, Mme de Renal and Mathilde really love Julien — I mean REALLY love him? How sincere, or genuine, are Julien's words and actions? Has he achieved any kind of love or heroism?

Mathilde early on had said: "Nothing can so distinguish a man as a death sentence. It's the only thing one can't buy."



Blogger nessie said...

No. I dont think that they did love him. In fact, it is my impression that Stendhal was trying to say that love, in their circumstance, was impossible. There was no way of testing it for real when they lived in a world that fed off drama and gossip. I don't think that Stendhal was promoting war times but saying that during those times of need is when such affections are tested on their merits as is character.

Mathilde loved Julien the hero & legend. Mme de Renal loved Julien the brave. Neither loved Julien.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Isabella said...

There's no way of testing it, and what troubled me from the beginning was their need to test it. To the end they play games. I think Mathilde in the end truly considers Julien worthy of her love, and loves him as well as she's able. It seems to me Stendhal's cynical about love in general, whether in times of war or revolution. If anything he's exploring the possibility of breaking across class lines.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

This was seriously the wrong book at the wrong time for me, I'm afraid. Everybody's inability to do anything genuine just irked the hell out of me, and if anyone DID feel anything genuine (eg. Mme. de Renal early on) the object of their affection was completely unworthy of it.

I also think Mathilde comes close to real feeling at the end, but it's too little too late (for her, and for me).

There have been times in my life this book would have appealed to me, but right now just isn't one of them.

4:04 PM  
Blogger amcorrea said...

Hope to post more here when I've finished it (am currently halfway through).

I'm finding this more complex (in a way) than Vanity Fair. There is much irony and hypocrisy (of course), but Julien's hypocrisies have hypocrisies and the irony is doubled back on itself until I can't remember which I started with...

A great book. It was recommended (in passing) this weekend at the Hay Festival by Eduardo Lago (director of the Cervantes Institute in New York). Am glad to keep with it till the end.

1:03 PM  
Blogger nessie said...

Rachel, you really don't find Julien worth it? He is 19 years old at the time of his death. Were we not all a little silly at that age? Drowning in idealistic dreams that make no sense a year later? Julien never had the opportunity for death is the over all finality - duh!

12:15 AM  
Blogger amcorrea said...

"How sincere, or genuine, are Julien's words and actions?"

The further I read, the more I think my initial judgment of Julien was a little harsh. Page 285 seemed like a turning point of sorts in his character:

"These were arrogant children, and mere me!" he suddenly exclaimed, as if waking with a start. "What difficult things have I ever done, to give myself the right to judge these poor devils, who in the end, once in their lifetimes, actually dared, actually started to act?"

And as Nessie points out, he is (after all) only 19... But then there's so much calculation and affectation about everything he does (or doesn't) do. And "his model and master"? That "great hypocrite, Moliere's Tartuffe."

Looking forward to seeing how this all plays out...

3:57 PM  
Blogger amcorrea said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Ana María here--blogger isn't letting me in because I accidentally switched to the "new version". Wish I could switch back to the old one!)

I finally finished it last weekend. I loved Stendhal's writing, but was constantly frustrated with the characters. They each have their moments of truth, but tend to fall back into the shams they themselves create. Julien has many moments when he is truly dealing with reality, but artifice and strategizing consume most of them.

Mathilde was consumed by her fantasy-ideal, Madame Renal by her remorse--never wholly able to choose one side or another.

I am still thinking about this novel... Hope to post at least once more about it soon.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Mike M said...

I enjoy this blog very much. I will be back for more.


12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has a new book been choosen?
I promise to join in this time.


8:49 PM  
Blogger sam Abdullah said...

reading and taking notes is necessory

9:12 PM  

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