7 days, 11.83 hours, 334 pages later, about 2/3 through Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and I’m loving it! You guys… how can a two-hundred-year-old book be so relevant?! That’s a rhetorical question, of course. I know exactly why. Because humanity doesn’t change much. The details do. What we think is fashionable, the circumstances of our lives, sure, THOSE things change. But what it means to be human in a civilization of men? Not really.
“Bringing in profit is the consideration which decides everything in this little town which you thought so pretty. The stranger who arrives in the town is fascinated by the beauty of the fresh deep valleys which surround it, and he imagines at first that the inhabitants have an appreciation of the beautiful. They talk only too frequently of the beauty of their country, and it cannot be denied that they lay great stress on it, but the reason is that it attracts a number of strangers, whose money enriches the inn-keepers, a process which brings in profit to the town, owing to the machinery of the octroi (local taxes).”
This is all too familiar because I live in a town outside a National Park. Our town and businesses thrive on tourism, and they all complain about tourists while they make their livings off them. Strange, isn’t it? All that our peaceful desert town is wouldn’t be if weren’t for tourists and war.
“A burst of coarse laughter, a shrug of the shoulders, accompanied by some platitude on the folly of women, had been the only welcome her husband had vouchsafed to those confidences about her troubles, which the need of unburdening herself had induced her to make during the first years of their marriage.”
Luckily, my husband isn’t like that. I’m not sure how I’d react if the person I spend most of my time with brushed off my troubles with a shrug and a cruel laugh. He is my safe harbor in this world. The only place where I feel that anything I say, do, or feel is validated. What does madam do in response to this treatment? She withdraws into herself, and searches for someone else to connect with. We need connection to thrive.
“While Madame de Rênal was rejoicing over the kind of reparation which she had had the courage to make to Julien, the latter was overwhelmed with astonishment at the quantity of books which he saw at the bookseller’s. He had never dared to enter so profane a place. His heart was palpitating. Instead of trying to guess what was passing in Madame de Rênal’s heart he pondered deeply over the means by which a young theological student could procure some of those books.”
Julien and I have something in common, an awe of number of books there are in the world. First and foremost in my mind, how do I acquire all these books, how will I have time to study them all, and where will I keep them?! He doesn’t even notice Madame’s love for him.
That’s all I have today. I thought I’d have more, but alas… my mind is elsewhere and I must follow that rabbit trail and see where it leads me.
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