1001 Group Read for September: The Red and the Black
Bliv bruger af LibraryThing, hvis du vil skrive et indlæg
Dette emne er markeret som "i hvile"—det seneste indlæg er mere end 90 dage gammel. Du kan vække emnet til live ved at poste et indlæg.
It took me a while to get the hang of Stendhal's style. Much time is spent inside the heads of the various characters. The style issue for me was that he jumped from one character's head to another's with little or no warning or transition. I would find myself befuddled when an inner dialogue that I was following with interest suddenly made no sense to me. Then I would realize that I was no longer inside the head I thought I was in.
Once I learned to watch for these abrupt head trips I started to enjoy this novel. Still, it's been a challenging read. I know next to nothing about French history and so took a time out to read some Wikipedia pages to give myself some frame of reference. There are also references to church history that I didn't understand and visited Wikipedia again. That helped a bit.
The main character is Julien Sorel, a peasant son of the owner of a small town's saw mill. Julien was abused by his father and brothers, intellectually gifted, socially unsophisticated, naive about relationships/love, vane, amoral, and incredibly ambitious. The rigid class structure of the time conspired against any chance of him fulfilling his ambitions. Normally I would feel compelled to cut someone like Julien at least a little slack (after all, the deck was so stacked against him) but I my heart is completely cold toward him. Julien is vane and selfish. His conscience is never troubled by hurting others, or even by putting those that love him in danger. He embraces hypocrisy as a practical method of advancement in career and in relationships. Everything is only, and always, about Julien.
There is not a single major character in this book that I like (at least so far) but Stendhal makes me spend so much time in their heads that I'm invested in trying to understand them.
This is a meaty book that is not only a coming of age story of a complicated protagonist, but a scathing indictment of the post-Napoleon aristocratic society and a mostly corrupt church.
I'm glad I know a little bit about the politics of the early 1800s, but I'm definitely wishing I knew a little more. If I come to any specific questions, I'll ask here to see if anyone can enlighten me.
And then there's the church. I would assume that the church backs royalty seeing as they were almost destroyed during the republican revolution, but I don't really understand the divisions that Stendahl is presenting or who is on which side.
Basically, I think this book would mean a lot more to me and obviously have been much more controversial if I'd actually read it in 19th cent France!
Anyone able to enlighten me on any of this, or are we all in the dark?
BTW. The Red and the Black don't refer to political parties, but to costumes: the red costume of soldiers and the black costume of the clergy.
#10 The book's Wikipedia entry has some background info. Watch out for spoilers.
I've got about a hundred pages to go and then I'll do a little background reading to avoid spoilers now.
I'll tell you one thing - I'm not enjoying Julien's pathetic relationships! What a mess!
Somehow, even with not understanding the politics and not liking most of the characters, I'm still enjoying the book.
I liked it, but felt too removed from the characters and setting to say I loved it.
I'll be checking in on this thread if anyone wants to discuss anything as they go.
Actually, since finishing it, the more I think about it the more I'm appreciating it. It is a well-crafted book for sure.
I did, however, like the book a lot and wouldn't mind rereading it sometime (if time permits - ha!) to try to see what the abbés Chénal & Pirard saw in Julien that I just couldn't see.
I still wish I understood more of French history. It would have given an added dimension that I would have enjoyed. I found the insights into the intrigues going on in the Catholic church at that time to be really interesting.
I appreciated Stendhal's style, once I got used to it, and definitely plan to read The Charterhouse of Parma (also on the 1001 list).
>21 devone: and anyone else thinking about reading The Charterhouse of Parma, be aware that it is not only longer than The Red and the Black, it is also more unlike the romantic novels that we know. The story is not at all straightforward, it reminded me more of Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy or even soap series.