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La Chartreuse de Parme: Chronologie, Presentation, Notes, Dossier (French Edition)

ISBN13: 9782080711199
ISBN: 2080711199
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
List Price: $16.95
Publisher: Flammarion
Published Date:
Pages: 683
Average Goodreads rating: 3.82/5 (2 ratings)

Officer, diplomat, spy, journalist & intermittent genius, Marie Henri Beyle employed more than 200 aliases in the course of his crowded career. His most famous moniker, however, was Stendhal, which he affixed to his greatest work, The Charterhouse of Parma. The author spent a mere seven weeks cranking out this marvel in 1838, setting the fictional equivalent of a land-speed record. To be honest, there are occasional signs of haste, during which he clearly bypassed le mot juste in favor of narrative zing. So what? Stendhal at his sloppiest is still wittier & wiser about human behavior, than just about any writer you could name. No wonder so meticulous a stylist as Paul Valéry was happy to forgive his sins against French grammar: "We should never be finished with Stendhal. I can think of no greater praise than that." The plot of The Charterhouse of Parma suggests a run-of-the-mill potboiler, complete with court intrigue, military derring-do & 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 & ambition, not to mention our endless capacity for self-deception. No wonder his hero, Fabrizio de Dongo, seems to know everything & 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, 20 paces ahead, a ploughed field that seemed to be strangely in motion; the furrows were filled with water, & the wet ground that formed their crests was exploding into tiny black fragments flung 3 or 4 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; & when he turned to look at them, they were already 20 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. Crammed with life, lust & 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 (edited)