Final Thoughts on Stendhal

I won’t even go into detail about the rough weekend I just had. Suffice it to say, “burn it all down” feelings came up, but the storm finally passed over. There was some damage done, but with the help of Rebecca Ore’s coaching, it wasn’t as bad as past storms. Lessons were learned, new thought patterns were created… but man I’m tired.

Let’s get back to books!

I finished reading The Red and The Black by Stendhal on Saturday morning, just as the storm had started to stir a breeze, the ones you can only see in hindsight. I can’t believe I missed adding that fatty to my March reading total by one stinking hour! If I had only not skipped a day! Yeah, I’m a dork, but it’s part of my charm. I know that it was important that I skip that day, or two. I do have other things to do besides read, you know!

stendhal picture of the final page of the novel
A love note from the author to me and back again.

My quick review of this book: You should read it. It was awesome. Not a slow page in the whole thing. And yes, I’m talking about a two-hundred-year-old classic French novel. I was agonizing about reading it because it was written in 1830, French, and translated into English in 1913. Was it going to be a slow read? Was I going to have to slog through it all, mining for relevant takeaways? Was there a better translation than the used Barnes & Noble Classic I found for $5 recently?

Nope. It was perfect. I loved it and I think you would too!

I have a few more favorite quotes to share with you before I move on to new things!

“One evening at the opera, when in Madame de Fervaques’ box, Julien spoke of the ballet of Manon Lescaut in the most enthusiastic terms. His only reason for talking in that strain was the fact that he thought it insignificant.

“The maréchale said that the ballet was very inferior to the abbé Prévost’s novel.

“”The idea,” thought Julien, both surprised and amused, “of so highly virtuous a person praising a novel! Madame de Fervaques used to profess two or three times a week the most absolute contempt for those writers, who, by means of their insipid works, try to corrupt a youth which is, alas! only too inclined to the errors of the senses.””

Did she just say the book was better than the movie? I think she did! And then Julien is disgusted… Novels are so beneath a person like her. I love bringing this kind of thing up when people complain that no one reads these days and that the world is lost because of it, as if reading novels has always been the epitome of virtue.

And then there are the games that Julien and Mathilde play.

“He knew quite well that Mathilde would be in the library at eight o’clock in the morning of the following day. He did not appear before nine o’clock. He was burning with love, but his head dominated his heart.”

That part of the novel drove me bonkers, but I realize what’s going on here. The difference between their classes and status makes them do this even more than is typically prescribed between lovers at the time. Here we are two-hundred years later, still trying to drop the habit of playing games with each other in matters of love and sex.

“We must give up all faith in prudence. This age is made to confound everything. We are marching toward chaos.”

I agree! Chaos is good from time to time. It shakes things up and makes changes to a stale and dying world.

“I still have five or six weeks, more or less, to live. …Kill myself. No, not for a minute,” he said to himself after some days. “Napoleon went on living.”

“Besides, I find life pleasant, this place is quiet, I am not troubled with bores,” he added with a smile, and he began to make out a list of the books which he wanted to order from Paris.

You have to hand it to him, the man is cool as cucumber. Even in jail, awaiting a trial that will most likely lead him to the guillotine, he keeps his… head! He’s always waiting to see what opportunities come up next, weighing the options, and choosing his best course, the one that will ultimately lead him closer to his goals. He’s brilliant.

The introduction written for this novel was right. No matter how many terrible things Julien does in the name of advancing himself, I still admire him, but I’m not sure why. Is it because it feels like all these things are thrust upon him, and he’s just a peasant boy trying to get ahead? What’s a guy to do, remember his place and refuse? Hell no! Throw prudence to the wind and step into chaos! Let’s see what happens!

Yeah, I really loved this book. Here I go to set in on the shelf among its previously read brethren. I’ll be back for you, my dear, either to read over again when the end times come and I can no longer buy new books, or to loan out to another classic reading nerd like me.

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