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The Red and the Black: A Novel of Post-Napoleonic France Paperback – February 16, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Burton Raffel’s translations

For 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 Davenport

For 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 --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

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.

After the fall of Napoleon, he retired to Italy, adopted his pseudonym and started to write books on Italian painting, Haydn and Mozart, and travels in Italy. In 1821 the Austrian police expelled him from the country, and on returning to Paris he finished his book De l’amour. This was followed by Racine et Shakespeare, a defense of Romantic literature. Le Rouge et le noir was his second novel, and he also produced or began three others, including La Chartreuse de Parme and Lucien Leuwen. None of his published works was received with any great understanding during his lifetime.

Beyle was appointed Consul at Civitavecchia after the 1830 revolution, but his health deteriorated and six years later he was back in Paris and beginning a Life of Napoleon. In 1841 he was once again recalled for reasons of illness, and in the following year suffered a fatal stroke. Various autobiographical works, Journal, Souvenirs de l’egotisme and La Vie de Henri Brulard, were published later, as his fame grew.

--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; Reissue edition (February 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871401487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871401489
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,986,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Strangely, all of my friends who were raised outside the United States are well aware of this book--everyone raised inside has no knowledge (even people who have taken three years of french in college!). If anyone has any theories on this I'd love to know. "Red and the Black" is a terrific look into the power structure of 19th century France, the wheeling and dealing of the church and aristocracy. Depictions of drawing room socials and seminary politics feel very right (though I wouldn't know much about either, as historical fact), and have a very engaging cynical edge to it.
In addition, it is about a man who is pulled by two opposing forces: an ambition to gain power (either through the church or state; it matters little to him which), and intense passions that are in his heart. He realizes from a young age that in order to succeed in the world, he must master the art of hypocrisy. And as he reaches the age where he first begins to explore his passions, this desire for hypocrisy and conquest get horribly mixed up, leading to horrendous self-analysis on the part of the main character, followed by equally strange actions. The personality of the characters are wonderfully believable--the interactions of these people, full of all sorts of emotions and ideas, are a good study in interpersonal dynamics (in a sort of extreme case) and emotional growth. The characters are alive, they grow and learn, and their excesses of suffering and joy make this a page-turner. To sum up: a well-written, engaging work that depicts 19th century power struggles, incredibly interesting characters, and a few ideas about life to chew on as well.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Taylor Rand on July 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Burton Raffel's modern translation to Scott-Moncreiff's 1926 version (that's the one you're looking at here). Raffel's Stendhal is more accessible and immediate - The Red and The Black becomes more of a novel than does S-M's nearly 100-year-old translation of a nearly 200-year-old text.

However, S-M's translation may be closer to Stendhal's convoluted style (ironically, Stendhal's writing was, I believe, considered straightforward in his time). I've read the book in the original French - as a learning exercise - and it seems to me that S-M's work is a bit closer to the original. I'm no scholar, not a native French speaker nor a translator either, so I won't venture down that road very far.

Anyhow, if you're looking for a good translation with a modern feel, I'd go with Raffel's. It's pricier (still cheap though), but I believe you'd get far more enjoyment and more of a connection with the book as a novel, rather than as a literary artifact from a long-past era.

Actually, why not get both versions? S-M's translation is only a dollar and not without an antiquarian charm.
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44 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 1997
Format: Hardcover
About halfway through this arch and amusing tale of the foolish, machiavellian Julien Sorel we read: "He almost went mad with joy on finding an edition of Voltaire. He ran and opened the library door so as not to be caught in the act. Next he gave himself the pleasure of opening each of the eighty volumes." You too will almost go mad with joy when you slip into a book that can startle with its pulse, its passion, its ability to seem like a forbidden pleasure. You will smile with glee as you run your hands across pages racy enough to make you feel like you could be caught in the act. You'll find yourself sighing on page 248 when you realize Julien has a full eighty volumes of Voltaire to keep his fires burning, while you only have 500 pages of the Red and the Black. But don't give into that familiar panic--that it might end, that you will spend years regretting those 500 pages of momentary pleasure--because it only gets better with each successive read. Like Cleopatra, it doesn't cloy where most it satisfies, but leaves you short of breath, wanting more-
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42 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Leo E. Walsh on March 22, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. Unlike many reviewers, I feel the book does transcend time. American people and culture today, computers and all, are a lot like those in Stendhal's 19th century France.

The main characters strike me as real, and quite complex. Julien is a typical adolescent/ young adult: Idealistic, searching and unsure of himself. To me, it is amazing to what how the world interacts with and alters his self-image. Mathilde is equally interesting. She reminds me of a flighty alternative girl, looking for a dream of simmering romance. And MME de Renal is a wonderful, believable woman, falling in love late in life, victim of the missing husband syndrome.

Like people today, Stedhal's characters are a bundle of contradictions. Is Julien a villain, an angel, a self-serving climber or a man truly in love, searching for his higher self? Aloof or loveable? Is MME de Renal a devout, moral patroness, devoted to her family, or the vilest of adulators, ready to turn her back on duty for the simmer of love? Is Mathilde submissive, or arrogant and dominant?

The answer to all questions is yes. We are all divided.

Be honest with yourself for a minute. Aren't people sometimes cruel, and sometimes kind; Sometimes, honest, sometimes mildly deceitful, telling white lies, and sometimes bold-faced liars? Since Stendhal is faithful to this, and does not give us character in black and white, he has produced a masterpiece.

One last point: You do not need a lot of historical background to understand the author's critique of society. The basic overview laid out in the introduction, and my college course in Western Civ gave me the jist of the cultural goings-on. I even found French culture around the time of Stendhal remarkably similar to our own.
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