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The Red and the Black (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – May 11, 2004

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Burton Raffel’s] exciting new translation of The Red and the Black blasts Stendhal into the twenty-first century.”
—Salon.com

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812972074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812972078
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Bookman on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The Red and the Black is the greatest novel ever written. I first began reading it six years ago, and I've read it twice a year ever since. I own five different translations: Robert Adams (Norton Critical), Lowell Bair (Bantam Classics), Catherine Slater (Oxford World's Classics), Burton Raffel (Modern Library), and Lloyd C. Parks (Signet Classics).

I use the Parks version as my reading text and use the others for comparison, whenever a particular word or passage seems odd. The Raffel translation is an acceptable substitute, if you're only buying one version; but I like it less because it lacks depth, texture, and flavor, like those bland lattes they sell at Starbucks. It's almost as if Raffel wants you to forget that Stendhal was French, that the characters are French, and the action takes place in France. You could easily switch character and place names and never know the book had been penned by a foreigner.

Note the differences between these two versions of the same passage. Raffel at p. 88 (paper): "She loved him a thousand times more than life itself, and never gave a thought to money." Parks at p. 102-3: "She loved him a thousand times better than life, would have loved him had he been ungrateful and untrue, even if he had belonged to the opposite party, the Bonapartists... and her money meant nothing to her." (Elipsis in original.)

I keep giving Raffel a fair shot at becoming my primary text, but I keep coming back to Parks. Page for page, it's a better read.
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65 of 74 people found the following review helpful By rater25 on September 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Modern Library "translation" by Burton Raffel of THE RED AND THE BLACK is actually a vulgar, anachronistic retelling of Stendhal's novel. I recall abandoning it in disgust when the main character refers to his life as a total "blast". MTV was obviously very popular in 1830 France.

Instead, the brilliant Moncrieff translation, as revised by Stendhal scholar Ann Jefferson, is highly recommended (Everyman paperback, ISBN 0460876430).

June, 2011 update: Just read the translation Roger Gard did for Penguin just before his untimely death. It is accurate, fluent, free of Briticisms and has excellent and extensive notes. Highly recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By FictionFan TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 26, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I wanted very much to like this book and indeed there was much in it to savour and enjoy. The author casts an observant if cynical eye over early nineteenth-century France, the post-Napoleonic era. Through his hero (or perhaps anti-hero), Julian Sorel, he shows us small town, provincial attitudes, takes us into the hierarchy of the Church and then, as Julian's unusual talents allow him to rise, leads us into the top echelons of Paris political and social life. Throughout the author showed the hypocrisy and greed prevalent in every part of society, the jostling for power and social position and the precarious nature of social status in a society still quivering from the upheavals of its recent history.

However, I felt the book had some important flaws too. Julian is a cold, calculating hypocrite (though with occasional flashes of manic passion) and as such I found it hard to empathise with him at any point. His two great love affairs were on-off to such an extreme that it became tedious and repetitive. At least a quarter of the entire novel is taken up with descriptions of how Julien and Mathilde fell in and out of love with each other repeatedly and only once or twice at the same time. I found myself quietly chanting `she loves him, she loves him not' each time I resumed reading. Unfortunately I also `loved him not' but a good deal more constantly than the spoiled, haughty and frankly unstable Mathilde.

There is always an issue with translated novels in that the reader is not able to determine whether any flaws are with the original or the translation. I started to read the Moncrieff translation and while it may have been accurate it was so poorly written as to be almost unreadable.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on September 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
The first great psychological novel ever written, THE RED AND THE BLACK centers around Julien Sorel, a tender and honest young man, but one consumed by ambition, and "filled with imagination and illusion." Napolean is his hero, yet he believes the Church has now rightly re-established its position at the head of society. (Red=color of the French army uniforms; Black=color of the priests' robes.) Julien, an outwardly pious seminary student (he's memorized the entire New Testament), wavers between these two positions. While acting as tutor to her children, he seduces Mme. de Renal; his seduction is carefully plotted, almost as if it were a military campaign. He finally succeeds, but later her husband finds out about it, and Julien leaves. He becomes a secretary to a wealthy landowner and falls in love with his beautiful daughter Mathilde. Just before they are to marry (she is already pregnant) an anonymous letter comes to Mathilde's father revealing the affair between Julien and Mme. de Renal. He now forbids the marriage, and Julien, passionately overwrought, seeks out his former mistress, finds her in a church, and shoots her. He is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death - even though it's later learned that Mme. de Renal recovers fully from the shooting. No pleading by friends will persuade Julien to help himself, and he calmly goes to his death.

Stendhal is a master at analyzing the inner workings of his characters, especially of Julien Sorel. This constant delving into Julien's psychological motivations sometimes causes the plot to slow to a crawl, but it is crucial to the book and to Stendhal's art.
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