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The Charterhouse of Parma (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 19, 2007
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The plot of The Charterhouse of Parma suggests a run-of-the-mill potboiler, complete with court intrigue, military derring-do, and more romance than you can shake a saber at. But Stendhal had an amazing, pre-Freudian grasp of psychology (at least the Gallic variant). More than most of his contemporaries, he understood the incessant jostling of love, sex, fear, and ambition, not to mention our endless capacity for self-deception. No wonder his hero, Fabrizio de Dongo, seems to know everything and nothing about himself. Even under fire at the Battle of Waterloo, the young Fabrizio has a tendency to lose himself in Napoleonic reverie:
Suddenly everyone galloped off. A few moments later Fabrizio saw, twenty paces ahead, a ploughed field that seemed to be strangely in motion; the furrows were filled with water, and the wet ground that formed their crests was exploding into tiny black fragments flung three or four feet into the air. Fabrizio noticed this odd effect as he passed; then his mind returned to daydreams of the Marshal's glory. He heard a sharp cry beside him: two hussars had fallen, riddled by bullets; and when he turned to look at them, they were already twenty paces behind the escort.The quote above, a famous one, captures something of Stendhal's headlong style. Until now, most English-speaking readers have experienced it via C.K. Scott-Moncrieff's superb 1925 translation. But now Richard Howard has modernized his predecessor's period touches, streamlined some of the fussier locutions, and generally given Stendhal his high-velocity due. The result is a timely version of a timeless masterpiece, which shouldn't need to be updated again until, oh, 2050. Crammed with life, lust, and verbal fireworks, The Charterhouse of Parma demonstrates the real truth of its creator's self-composed epitaph: "He lived. He wrote. He loved." --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"[A] superb new translation."
--Bernard Knox, The New York Review of Books
"An epic tale of war, love, sex, politics, and religion...an action-packed narrative."
--The New Yorker
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Top Customer Reviews
Years before I read "Charterhouse of Parma" I read "Red and Black," and one thing I noticed with that book, which I love, is what a tricky thing it is to translate Stendhal. I read the old Margaret Shaw translation in an old used Penguin--much maligned, just like her "Charterhouse" translation. But I found something odd: Shaw's very British failure to even try to approximate Stendhal's dash and offhand brio, his proto-modern style-of-no-style, actually worked well. Shaw concentrated only on faithfully conveying Stendhal's sense, and so in spite of her mid-twentieth century educated British English, Stendhal's authorial voice came through beautifully. She didn't get his literary style but she caught his thought on the wing, and in "Red & Black" that's what really matters.
But in "Charterhouse," literary style is really inseparable from the work. For this deconstructed medieval fairytale set among the reactionary, repressive, collapsing aristocracies of revolutionary Europe, Stendhal employed a self-consciously traditional tale-teller's style, yet laced through with his own ironic realism. That hybrid/clash of styles is crucial, since it embodies Stendhal's vision of a modern Europe groaningly aborning amid its contradictions: for example, say, in expressing the delicious mash-up of incongruities between that old staple of Euro-tales, the humble subject approaching the throne of the king for a favor, and the shockingly novel, psychologically and politically realistic use Stendhal makes of that received form here. This is the thrilling birth of modern literature, and the presentational voice really matters. And is really hard to get right, judging from the translation attempts I've tried.Read more ›
The Modern Library has apparently decided that, with so many good Stendhal translations out there (Slater; Mauldin's Charterhouse; the NEW Penguin R & B; Lowell Bair's Charterhouse), it has a duty to provide bad ones. Richard Howard's translation has errors that even my schoolboy French can pick up. The New Criterion (which may have its own bones to pick w/ Mr. Howard, true) listed a great many flaws in his command of the French. And he's tone deaf to Stendhal in many of my favorite passages (not as bad as the old Shaw Penguins, but bad enough). If you read Howard's Stendhal & think you don't like him, try a better translation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have had this book on my must read list for over 30 years, and I finally bought the translation by Parker and read it. I’m glad I did. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Eric Lee Smith
Old fashioned and sometimes confusing but good fun with wonderfully descriptive prose.Published 5 months ago by Tiger
disappointing - I expected it to be about the Napoleonic final battle.Published 6 months ago by June Carol
Pretty boring. In my opinion, not very well written but perhaps that is because it was poorly translated from another language. Hard to identify with any of the characters. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Margery Andrews
Real 19th century romanticism / realism and very enjoyable. Translation far from perfect though.Published 13 months ago by P.V.Callenfels
The book's ending is surprisingly abrupt, but other than that is is a very engaging read.Published 13 months ago by HH