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

4.0 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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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

STENDHAL(Marie-Henri Beyle) was born in Grenoble in 1783. He served in Napoleon's cavalry and thereafter lived in Italy and Paris, where he wrote many books, including On Love, the autobiographical Life of Henri Brulard, The Charterhouse of Parma (which he wrote in fifty-two days), and The Red and the Black. He died in 1842.
BURTON RAFFEL is a distinguished professor of humanities at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His many translations include Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, winner of the 1991 French-American Foundation Translation Prize, Chretien de Troyes's Arthurian Romances, Cervantes's Don Quijote, and Balzac's Pere Goriot. His translation of Beowulf has sold more than a million copies.
DIANE JOHNSON Is the author of ten novels--most recently Le Mariage and Le Divorce--two books of essays, two biographies, and the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick's classic film "The Shining," She has been a finalist four times for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; Revised ed. 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,747,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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While Stendhal is amazing, there were bugs in this version. On certain pages the novel would crash and disappear and those pages had to be skipped. This was very annoying so I ended up paying for the Modern Library edition and it was wonderful! The difference in translation was astounding. Stendhal is a master writer, with profound insights that ring true today. The political scheming of Stendhal's era can be found today proving that some things don't ever really change (human nature). Stendhal understands the human heart in all its contradictions and expresses these contradictions beautifully. His characters grow throughout the novel. Contemporary novelists would do well to study Stendhal and learn about structure, characterization, and the human heart. Stendhal knows how to create an erotic love scene from a mere description of holding hands! It's really a remarkable writing feat that few can accomplish today. I have become a True Fan!
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Stendhal has written a sharp, dark satire of post revolutionary France. The humor is dark, trending into melodrama. So much of the content is based in the history of that moment that an annotated version is very much needed. Despite the presence of the word "Annotated" in the title, this edition is not annotated. The error does not appear to belong to Amazon

Having read Stendhal's The Charterhouse of Parma The Charterhouse of Parma (Penguin Classics), I find this book to be more of a pleasure to read. The translation may be more modern, but I was looking to avoid some of the older writing styles. Even so I would love to know if there was a better translation of whatever French word was returned as "Wiseacres".

One does not hear or read the word 'droll' very often. (Dictionary.com: amusing in an odd way; whimsically humorous; waggish.) Droll is down played, roguish rather than slapstick. The wink of a non-glinting eye. Definitely not a pie in the face. Directed to the mind, not the belly. It seems perfect for a certain type of French humor and it is here in Red and The Black.
In order to appreciate droll humor, one must have a fairly deep understanding of the context of the joke. In This case much of the humor is based on class, politics, education, religious orders and French life at the time of the story.

All of this begs for Annotation. As near as I can tell, the Kindle edition has no annotation. Non-English quotes are not translated. Political parties are not identified. References to possibly real newspapers, events or people are not discussed. Even some details on church titles and hierarchies would help.
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