26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2000
Who would think that an unfinished autobiography could be so good? But despite its rough edges and the odd passage of interest only to the author, the Life of Henry Brulard is very good indeed, and as moving as The Red and the Black. Early in the Life, Stendhal describes the pleasure of reading Florentine goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini's memoirs, so fresh, he notes, that they seem to have been written yesterday. The same could be said for Stendhal's own autobiography.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2003
I didn't look forward to trying this book---memoirs of childhood seldom do much for me---but there being so little Stendhal out there in translation, I couldn't overlook it. Well, long book tho it is, H.B. is very readable and a lot of fun for those who love Stendhal's style and persona. Chatty, honest, quirky (all those little maps!), skipping around madly, with the strange mix of irony and idealism that makes Stendhal so "modern," this is an enjoyable book for "the happy few." I doubt there are many books like it---Rousseau's confessions feel much more polished, & hence less "real," than Stendhal's book does. (Of course I'm agnostic on how honest S. really is---but it's a good book, true or not!)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2014
On page 305 of this long and remarkably non-traditional autobiography, Stendhal addresses his readers with this characteristically frank admission: "At bottom, dear reader, I don't know what I am: kind, unkind, clever, stupid. What I know beyond question are the things that give me pain or pleasure, that I wish for or that I hate." What gives him pleasure he explains on the same page in the following charming way: "A salon of eight or ten people where all the women have had lovers, where the conversation is light-hearted, anecdotal, and where a light punch is drunk at half past midnight." -- This is the man. His autobiography describes how he became this man, describing his growing up as 16-year-long rebellion against the oppressive circumstances of his family, the over-protective tutelage of a bigoted and hateful aunt and a distant, cold father. Even as a ten-year old boy, Stendhal managed to attach his personal rebellion to the contemporaneous events in France (the call to freedom by the Revolution and the heroics of Napoleon's campaigns). This retelling of a childhood is very consciously undertaken by the man of 52. What this retrospective proves to its author is that he continues to be the man that he became during those formative, rebellious years: He still champions the same likes and dislikes (on the one hand nobility and clarity of thought, wit, love of the arts, passionate love of women, on the other hand hatred of hypocrisy, philistinism, bigotry, money grubbing, and political maneuvering). -- This is a long book, beautifully translated and intelligently introduced by John Sturrock. At times the story does show some longueurs. Still, what ultimately sustains the reader's interest is not necessarily the childhood of Stendhal, in itself rather uneventful, but his inimitable and self-revealing style of talking about it (see quotes above). -- If I have one issue with the production of this otherwise fascinating book, it concerns the addition of Stendhal's many drawings of locations in his accounts. I did not find they added anything to the text, except roughly 50 pages to make the book more bulky. This is not a critical edition. Why pretend to all-inclusiveness? One or two examples of these drawings would have given the reader a sense of what he/she would (or would not) be missing. -- A must for Stendhal lovers!