Hello again! Last week I started reading Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black” (the original title is “Le Rouge et le Noir”) and now I’m finally finished. It isn’t a long book, so I’m kinda surprised it took me that long to read it.
Anyway, when I started it, my granny asked what I was reading and she told me that she considered the book a bit of a bore. I have to admit, that during the first chapters I agreed with her. The story indeed started a bit slow and maybe a bit uninteresting, with a lot of details and names thrown at you, but once I got more into it, it became much better and much more interesting.
What was more strange, was that I didn’t really know what the book was about until I’ve read at least the half of it. Only then, did I start to realize what the authors intention was with this story.
At first I thought it’s just another romantic story about an impossible love, and I didn’t really like the story from that point of view. But as I read more, I slowly saw that the romantic plotline is not the heart of the book. It is, in fact, a psychological novel, following the evolving character of Julien Sorel, and also, a sociological satire of the French aristocracy in the 19th century.
The story starts by presenting the de Renal family, who are in need of a tutor for their children. They hire Julien Sorel, the intelligent and aspiring son of a carpenter, who later becomes the lover of Madame de Renal. Julien soon leaves their home in search for fame and recognition, on the path to priesthood, and encounters the countless flaws of the people belonging to the Church. Later, he becomes the secretary of Marquis de la Mole, a wealthy diplomat, and thus, learns about the life of the aristocracy. The writer depicts the world of Paris with irony, showing how the lack of moral values are hidden beneath the sparkle of wealth, making them not only acceptable, but actually the only way one could ever get in the higher classes.
Here Julien finds another kind of love in Mathilde, the daughter of the Marquis. This love seems a bit strange in a way, mostly because it is always blended with pride on both sides, each wanting to rule over the other without admitting their own feelings. The author presents in detail the war between the minds and the feelings of the young lovers. I, personally, found this fascinating because it was something I have never encountered, and I don’t think anything like this could happen nowadays. It was strange how their love for one another suddenly came to life, only to disappear just as quickly, then to revive again due to rejection. And even though I have never seen anything like this, I actually find it credulous and I think of this part of the book as a great psychoanalysis.
The ending of the book seemed a bit surprising, but fitting at the same time. I felt sad about the outcome, but I felt more sorry for the two lovers, than for Julien. The fact that the end wasn’t presented in any detail, seemed a bit strange, and for a moment I couldn’t believe it actually happened, but this way it was more shocking.
The book itself was rather good, but it may seem a bit hard to follow if one is not aware of the political background of the story. But all in all, it was a pleasant read and I would definitely recommend it.
For those of you, who would like to read it online, you can find it here: The Red and the Black
Next time I will be presenting something a bit more recent: Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress. I wish everyone a pleasant day and a pleasant week.