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Love (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 30, 1975
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Text: English, French (translation)
From the Back Cover
Drawing on history, literature, philosophy and his own experience of unrequited passion, 'Love' is a thinly disguised picture of the author's innermost feelings. Stendhal's obsession with Mathilde Viscontini Dembowski is at the heart of this book. For her part, she neither returned his love nor understood him. In an attempt to explain his feelings to her--and to exorcize his love--he dissects his passion. Bringing together the conflicting sides of his nature, the deeply emotional and the coolly analytical, Stendhal constructed a work that is both acutely personal and universally applicable.
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Top customer reviews
love sent me scurrying back to nietzsche who loved stendhal. nietzsche referred to stendhal as one of europe's greatest voices, one of its greatest spirits. it's easy, if one takes the time, to read how nietzsche was influenced by stendhal beyond making death of god remarks (that stendhal made such remarks first poured a little envy into nietzsche's ichors), his love of the french arts and of maxims and, the later nietzsche, troubling political and religious statements.
unlike nietzsche, stendhal's gifts lay in storytelling. still there's the feeling that the nietzsche most influenced by stendhal was affected by the stendhal of love, and nietzsche's work casts light on stendhal's shadowy love.
even without the light of nietzsche, it must be remembered love is a collection grown from unrequited love, the source of melancholia. and what begins as a joyful wisdom, falls flat. love had been in the shadows of lawrence sterne's brilliance.
things pick up considerably in book two with glimmers of the stendhal of the red and the black, with a nod toward the charterhouse of parma. even those sterne shadows begin to fade when stendhal moves toward a concern of love in different climates. love flourishes better in hot climates, he says, than in cold climates, with the exception of switzerland of where stendhal's anecdotes read like the original farmer's daughter jokes. nor is the united states spared, of our national innocence (before playboy, porn internet and high profile political adulteries and church sex scandals) stendhal wrote: `... we see that the americans, without the misfortunes of governments, feel themselves to be lacking in something. it is as though the springs of sensitiveness had dried up in these people; they are rational, but they are not at all happy. ... there is such a habit of reason in the united states that the crystallization of love there has become impossible.'
in book one, stendhal developed a phenomena, a principle, of what he called `crystallization', as a metaphor of love from an activity at the salt mines of salzburg, where `they throw a leafless wintry bough into one of the abandoned workings. two or three months later they haul it out covered with a shining deposit of crystals. the smallest twig, no bigger than a tom-tit's claw, is studded with a galaxy of scintillating diamonds. The original branch is no longer recognizable.' what stendhal calls `crystallization is a mental process of the perfection of the loved one.' an interesting and often amusing philosophy, until he becomes overly sententious. and much of the book is amusing and urbane.
the appendices, if you get that far (the often tedious text, rather compact at less than 275 pages, john updike referred to as `long'), are not to be skipped. the salzburg bough, ernestine, and an example of love can stand alone as short stories or, if true, anecdotes.
In the second part of the book he analyzses different national types in relation to Love, finding the French lacking and the Italians more successful.
This is a ' classic work' but in my reading of it it lacks the depth I sense is required to give a more convincing and comprehensive explanation of that Passion which makes us most human.