Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Out of the The Red and The Black

So I actually finished this some time ago, but was not up to chattering on about it, what with the beginning of the semester, the relative joys of advising and syllabus writing--so relative. I can say reading Stendhal's The Red and the Black over the summer felt like an accomplishment. I can also say it wasn't always a pleasure, as I sympathize with others who feel it is slow to modern tastes. But also it is shockingly fast in places, like where Julien gets his military dream and then is drawn back all in the space of a few small paragraphs. And I guess I wasn't prepared for the focus on romance though I have to say it's an unusal love triangle.

What I found very modern was the creation of Julien, a character so irreligious in a religious time (even if it were all hypocrisy) and so bent on social climbing, he would do splend in contemporary America--replace all that talk of class with celebrity. My favorite line comes as he finds a sort of peace with himself in prison but is plagued with visitors: "'The worst of all prison's miseries,' he thought, 'is not being able to close the door.'"

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