The Red And The Black

Paperback | September 24, 2002

byStendhalTranslated byRoger GardEditorRoger Gard

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Charts the rise and fall of an ambitious young social climber in a cruel, monarchical society

Handsome, ambitious Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble provincial origins. Soon realizing that success can only be achieved by adopting the subtle code of hypocrisy by which society operates, he begins to achieve advancement through deceit and self-interest. His triumphant career takes him into the heart of glamorous Parisian society, along the way conquering the gentle, married Madame de Rênal, and the haughty Mathilde. But then Julien commits an unexpected, devastating crime—and brings about his own downfall. The Red and the Black is a lively, satirical portrayal of French society after Waterloo, riddled with corruption, greed and ennui, and Julien—the cold exploiter whose Machiavellian campaign is undercut by his own emotions—is one of the most intriguing characters in European literature.

Roger Gard's fine translation remains faithful to the natural, conversational tone of the original, while his introduction elucidates the complexities of Julien's character. This edition also contains a chronology, further reading and an appendix on Stendhal's use of epigraphs.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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From the Publisher

Charts the rise and fall of an ambitious young social climber in a cruel, monarchical societyHandsome, ambitious Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble provincial origins. Soon realizing that success can only be achieved by adopting the subtle code of hypocrisy by which society operates, he begins to achieve advancement th...

Henri Marie Beyle, known through his writing as Stendhal, was born in Grenoble in 1783 and educated there at the École Centrale. A cousin offered him a post in the Ministry of War, and from 1800 he followed Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy, Germany, Russia and Austria. In between wars, he spent his time in Paris drawing rooms and theatres...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:607 pages, 7.81 × 5.09 × 1.07 inPublished:September 24, 2002Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0140447644

ISBN - 13:9780140447644

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Read from the Book

 From his earliest childhood he had experienced moments of rapture. Then, he would dream with delight that he would one day encounter the beautiful women of Paris, and would compel their attention by some famous deed. Why should he not be loved by one of them as Bonaparte, while still poor, had been loved by the brilliant Mme de Beauharnais? For many years, scarcely an hour of Julien's life passed without his telling himself that Bonaparte, an obscure and penniless lieutenant, had made himself the master of the world with his sword. This idea consoled him for his sufferings, which he thought great, and redoubled his happiness when he had any.The construction of the church and the Justice of the Peace's judgements suddenly enlightened him; and idea came to him which made him distraught for some weeks,  and seized hold of him with the overwhelming force belonging to the first idea with which a passionate nature believe itself to have been inspired.'When Bonaparte made people talk about him, France was in danger of invasion; military talent was necessary and fashionable. Today one sees 40-year-old priests with stipends of a hundred thousand francs, that is to say, three times more than Napoleon's famous generals. They need people behind them to support them. Look at this Justice of the peace, so sensible, such a fine upstanding man until now, so established, who has dishonoured himself for fear of offending a young clergyman of thirty. It is necessary to be a priest.'On one occasion, in the midst of this new piety, and after he had already been studying theology for two years, he was betrayed into a sudden eruption of the fire that consumed his soul. At M. Chélan's dwelling, during a dinner for the clergy to whom the good curé was presenting him as a prodigy of tuition, he found himself fervidly praising Napoleon. He bound his right arm across his chest, pretending it had been dislocated in moving a pine trunk, and carried it in this irksome position for two months. After this bodily penance, he absolved himself. This was the young man of nineteen - but so seemingly frail that one would have taken him for no more than seventeen - who, carrying his little parcel under his arm, entered the magnificent church of Verrières.He found it sombre and solitary. To mark a festival all the church windows had been covered with crimson cloth. The sun's rays shone through to produce a dim light, most pious and imposing. Julien shivered. Alone in the church, he established himself in the pew that had the finest appearance. It bore the arms of M. de Rênal. On the payer desk Julien noticed a fragment of printed paper, spread out as though to be read. He directed his eyes towards it and saw:Details of the execution and the last moments of Louis Jenrel, executed at Besancon, on the...The paper was torn off. On the other side could be seen the first words of a line, which were: The first step.- Who could have put this paper here? said Julien. Poor devil, he added with a sigh, his names ends like mine... and he crumpled the paper.Leaving, Julien thought he saw blood next to the holy water stoup - it was holy water that had been spilled: the reflection from the red blinds covering the windows gave it the appearance of blood.Eventually Julien was ashamed of his secret terror.- Am I a coward! he said to himself, To arms!This phrase, so often repeasted in the Surgeon-major's accounts of battles, represented the heroic for Julien. He raised himself up and walked rapidly towards M. de Rênal's house.  In spite of these fine resolves, from the moment he saw it twenty paces away, he was seized with an overpowering timidity. The iron grille was open; to him it seemed magnificent; and it was up to him to enter in. 

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTIONIn The Red and the Black, Stendhal paints a sweeping portrait of early nineteenth-century France—its social classes, professions, politics, and manners—in Paris and the provinces. The novel's characters represent virtually every level of intelligence and sensibility, in a plot involving passion, intrigue, satire, and last-minute reversals. Changing scene and focus so often that it has frequently been called "cinematic," the novel is held together by Julien Sorel, whose life provides its structure. Julien leaves his provincial home to become a tutor, strives to raise himself professionally and socially, becomes embroiled in a series of romantic escapades, and finally faces a capital trial. Until Stendhal chose the enigmatic phrase Le rouge et le noir as the title just before the book's publication, he called the novel Julien. Although Julien is indisputably the novel's central character, whether we should see him as a hero is an open question. At the end of the novel, Stendhal places us in the same position as the jury at Julien's trial, in effect asking us to evaluate Julien and compare our verdict with the court's.Unlike omniscient narrators in the novels of George Eliot or Anthony Trollope, Stendhal's is a playful, often ironic presence rather than a reliable touchstone. The narrator of The Red and the Black declares his "intention is to flatter no one" (p. 58), a statement in keeping with the novel's epigraph "Truth, the bitter truth." However, "truth" proves far from straightforward. The epigraph is attributed to Georges Jacques Danton, the proponent of the French Revolution who was later guillotined, but Danton may never have said it. Many of the epigraphs that open each chapter are either very loose renditions of quotations or outright fabrications. Further, the narrator's moods and opinions prove almost as changeable as those of the characters, who frequently argue with themselves and change their minds two or three times within a chapter. Thus the narrator, after one of the first interviews between Julien and Mme. de Rênal, the married provincial woman who is Julien's first love, breaks in to say, "I confess that the weakness displayed by Julien in this soliloquy gives me a poor opinion of him" (p. 151). Yet in the novel's second half, when Julien muses over his affair with Mathilde de La Mole, the narrator remarks, "It was an inherent flaw in his character to be extremely sensitive to his own failings" (p. 346). The narrator consistently responds to Julien, but responds inconsistently.Stendhal seems to question the very possibility of truth in this novel, presenting characters who tirelessly interpret and reinterpret their own and others' actions—and who are often proved wrong. Reading itself is implicated in this process, as the characters compare events to books they have read, expecting life to imitate art. Julien is an avid reader with quixotic tendencies; in Julien's first scene in the novel, his father knocks his beloved copy of the Memorial of St. Helena, a biography of Napoleon, into the sawmill stream (p. 25). Throughout the novel, the story of Napoleon is central to Julien's idea of himself as a man of merit who can aspire to success despite his low birth. He draws almost all of his ideas, and many of his feelings, from his reading. When offered the position of tutor to the Rênals' sons, his "horror of eating with the servants" is "borrowed...from Rousseau's Confessions" (p. 28). While seducing Mme. de Rênal, he must "fortify himself by studying the inspired book [Memorial of St. Helena] that tempered and re-tempered his soul" (p. 61). In this respect, Mathilde de La Mole is his female counterpart. She takes her ideas of aristocratic grandeur from the family legend of Queen Marguerite, and when she thinks she has fallen in love with Julien, she pages through an internal card catalogue: "She mentally reviewed all the descriptions of passion she had read in Manon Lescaut, La Nouvelle Héloïse, Letters of a Portuguese Nun, etc., etc." (p. 325). The novel's portrayal of such bookishness is complex. The narrator blames it for destroying the "freedom of spirit" necessary for sincere love (p. 89), but he also takes great delight in the absurdities generated when characters are playing parts in separate dramas, declaring that "nothing could be more amusing" (pp. 361-362) than Julien and Mathilde's mutual misunderstanding.The novel's most crucial action, Julien's shooting of Mme. de Rênal for writing a letter to M. de La Mole exposing their affair, stems from Julien's idea of himself as an actor in a heroic drama. From his imprisonment until the end of the book, the question is whether Julien will find truth—his true self, his true love—before his execution. For the first time in the novel, the two women he has romanced, Mme. de Rênal and Mathilde de La Mole, are brought together. Mme. de Rênal embodies the simplicity and sincerity associated with the unspoiled aspects of the countryside, while Mathilde partakes of the sophistication and role-playing associated with Paris. Julien must choose between them as he chooses what to say at his trial. At the age of twenty-three, he must make a reckoning of his life and decide how to face death.At his trial, Julien declares to the jury that if he is executed it will be in order to "discourage for ever that class of young men who, born into an inferior class...have the good luck to obtain a good education and the audacity to mix in what the arrogance of the rich calls Society" (p. 505). To what extent does Stendhal intend us to accept this, and to what extent does he fault Julien's own arrogance and impulsiveness? As his execution nears, Julien thinks that "I have loved truth...Where is truth?...Everywhere hypocrisy, or at least charlatanism, even among the most virtuous, even among the greatest;...No, man cannot put his trust in man" (pp. 522-523). Yet even here the novel presents multiple ways of understanding his statement. Is Julien a man who finally "sees clearly into his own soul" (p. 525)? Or is he playing yet another part, that of the doomed but heroic young man declaiming against society, as he seems to suggest when he cries out that "two steps away from death, I am still a hypocrite" (p. 524)?Beyond the figure of Julien himself, Stendhal's presentation of a social world frequently dominated by lying, cheating, and stealing offers a hint of the author's possible intentions. In the course of the novel it is clear that the provinces, the seminaries, and the city are fundamentally alike in the types of behavior they breed and frequently reward. This multilayered, endlessly intriguing novel ends appropriately with Stendhal's dedication of the novel "To the happy few." We are left to determine the identity of the "few," the source and nature of their happiness, and whether we count Julien—and ourselves—among them.ABOUT STENDHAL"Stendhal" was the pen name of Henri Marie Beyle, born in Grenoble on January 23, 1783. He came from a solidly middle-class family; his father was a barrister and his mother the daughter of a physician. His mother died when he was seven, and he grew to adore her memory and hate what his father represented to him—bourgeois manners and the pursuit of money. Feeling trapped in his home, the boy developed a vivid imagination and a taste for daydreaming.At the age of seventeen, Stendhal went to Paris and soon joined Napoleon's army in Italy. Here, and in Paris after he resigned from the army in 1801, he enjoyed a number of romantic liaisons. He joined Napoleon's Ministry of War and later followed the emperor on campaigns in Germany and Russia. After Napoleon's defeat, Stendhal left for Italy and settled in Milan. He began to write books about art and music, and first used the pseudonym "Stendhal"—taken from a town in Prussia where an art critic he admired had been born—in 1817.He returned to Paris in 1821 and frequented its salons and theaters. He wrote a number of books in the next several years, including his first novel, Armance (1827), and Le rouge et le noir (1830). He was appointed Consul to Trieste after the 1830 revolution, and was soon sent to the town of Civitavecchia, outside Rome. Though he did not publish new works during this time, he wrote Souvenirs d' égotisme and began two books he did not complete—Lucien Leuwen, a novel, and Vie de Henri Brulard, an autobiography. All three were published posthumously. In 1836, he returned to Paris due to ill health and there, in 1838, dictated La Chartreuse de Parme (1839), one of the two novels for which he is best known, in just fifty-two days.Stendhal's health began to deteriorate sharply in early 1841, when he suffered an attack of apoplexy. He died of a stroke on March 23, 1842. During his lifetime, his fiction was little appreciated. Just before Stendhal's death, Honoré de Balzac published an article in praise of La Chartreuse de Parme, but it was many years before critics recognized Stendhal's works as worthy enough to set beside those of Balzac and Gustave Flaubert.DISCUSSION QUESTIONSAccording to the novel, is Mme. de Rênal better off after her affair with Julien (pp. 166-167)? Why does Stendhal use military metaphors ("battle," "campaign," etc.) to describe Julien's romantic liaisons? Does the narrator consider Julien's sensitive pride a virtue or a fault? After one of his conversations with Mathilde de La Mole, Julien asks himself, "Must one steal? must one sell oneself? (p. 312)" What answers does the novel as a whole suggest to these questions? Why do anonymous letters play such an important role in the novel? At what point, if any, does Mathilde begin to genuinely care for Julien? Does he ever genuinely care for her? Why is escaping boredom such a strong motivation for both Julien and Mathilde? What distinction does the novel draw between "love generated in the mind" and "true love" (p. 373)? Why does Julien shoot Mme. de Rênal (pp. 469-471)? According to the novel, to what extent is he to blame for doing so? Why does Julien's love for Mme. de Rênal ultimately prove to be stronger than his love for Mathilde? While awaiting his trial, why does Julien derive such pleasure from solitude? At his trial, why is Julien able to speak spontaneously for the first time in his life? Are we intended to agree when Julien thinks that he is still a hypocrite (p. 524)? Why does Mathilde take Julien's head and bury it? Who are the "happy few" to which the novel is dedicated (p. 532)?FOR FURTHER REFLECTIONIs it possible to achieve worldly success without sacrificing one's integrity? To what extent does romantic love depend on mystery or deception? Are the interests of a society and those of an individual necessarily in conflict?RELATED TITLESBenjamin Constant, Adolphe (1816)Recognized as one of the earliest novels in the modern psychological tradition, Adolphe depicts its young hero's romantic and political coming of age.Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749)This picaresque, bawdily humorous novel follows the adventures of a young orphan as he seeks a place in the world.Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)An acknowledged masterpiece, Madame Bovary anatomizes both its adulterous title character and the bourgeois society that bred her.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774)Famous for spurring a rash of suicides among suggestible young readers, this story of a sensitive youth driven to despair by the world's harshness is one of the landmarks of the romantic movement in literature.Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768)The tale of Yorick, a man of tender feelings exploring Europe, was one of the most popular eighteenth-century "sentimental" novels, composed in its author's trademark digressive, playful prose.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Burton Raffel’s translationsFor Balzac’s Père Goriot“Raffel’s Père Goriot is both faithful and beautiful, and that makes it a masterpiece.” —Alain Renoir“I predict that this translation will give Balzac’s great novel a new life for English and American readers. . . . The definitive translation for this generation.” —Peter Brooks“[Raffel’s] translation has the vigor and elasticity of Balzac’s style, and catches with uncanny accuracy the tone of the period.” —Guy DavenportFor Cervantes’s Don Quijote“[Raffel’s Don Quijote] recasts the original into lively English, without losing the complexity and flavor of the Spanish. . . . This Quijote flows smoothly and reads, in fact, like original prose rather than a translation.” —Adrienne Martin