Red and the Black (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Red and the Black (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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The Red and the Black, by Stendhal, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
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  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

After Napoleon’s defeat, the French aristocracy tried to reassert its power in a government known as the Restoration. Venal and corrupt, the Restoration fell in 1830. Later that year, Stendhal published his scathing satire of Restoration society, The Red and the Black. Its title refers to the military and the clergy, the two career paths open to young men of intelligence and ambition but no social standing.

Stendhal’s hero, Julien Sorel, is such a young man. A seminary student, he is nevertheless an admirer of Napoleon, and dreams of military glory. When he is hired to tutor the mayor’s children, he quickly seduces the mayor’s wife, then moves on to Paris where he conquers a nobleman’s daughter. Sorel comes to believe that the secret of success is to outperform the hypocrites and vicious opportunists who surround him—and he’s right. But when the rich and powerful he so admires align against him, his downfall becomes unavoidable.

A master of characterization, Stendhal paints a fascinating, multi-layered portrait of Julien Sorel, who endures as one of literature’s most complex and surprisingly sympathetic—a would-be manipulator out of his depth in a sea of sharks.

Bruce Robbins is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress, The Servant’s Hand: English Fiction from Below, and Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593082864
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 11/01/2005
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 56,577
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.44(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Bruce Robbins’s Introduction to The Red and the Black

Climbing a ladder in the darkness, a young man is about to tap at the window of a woman’s bedroom. This tableau, twice repeated in The Red and the Black, reveals two essential things about the novel. First, Julien Sorel is a social climber, on his way up in the world. And second, seducing the two women who become his lovers, both of them social superiors whose doors he cannot afford to be seen entering, turns out to be the major means of his social ascent.

The reader is under no obligation to sympathize with this erotic agenda for career advancement, however accidentally the ambitious young protagonist falls into it, or for that matter with the protagonist himself. Again and again, especially in the scenes of romantic courtship, Stendhal takes pains to show Julien’s conduct as animated, if that is the right word, by cold-blooded self-interest more than by genuine passion or desire. A military campaign aimed at conquering the enemy, one of Julien’s favorite metaphors for what he is up to, is not a particularly appetizing way to think about love. Why then have generations of tenderhearted readers found this tough-minded novel so compelling?

To begin with, it is because Stendhal makes the reader feel how heavy the odds are against ascending the social ladder from the point where Julien starts out. The stubborn incomprehension Julien gets from his peasant father, while it falls somewhat short of monstrous tyranny, does set him up (like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre) as a sort of nineteenth-century Cinderella: a suffering, sensitive, disadvantaged figure with whom it is almost impossible not to identify, at least at the outset. In bringing this fairy-tale structure forward into the dense, realistically observed detail of early-nineteenth-century France (the novel’s subtitle is “A Chronicle of 1830”), Stendhal also puts French history itself to work in making his protagonist more palatable. Though the Revolution of 1830 is not in fact discussed—the novel was finished before it broke out, and it was his publisher’s idea, not Stendhal’s, to use the subtitle to capitalize on reader interest in this topical and momentous event—one can hardly avoid the sense of unbearably oppressive social weather on the eve of a devastating political thunderstorm. In the period after the defeats of Napoléon in 1813 and 1815, conventionally described as the Restoration (the monarchy was restored to power), the term “reactionary” was not a piece of mud-slinging hyperbole. Hard though it may be for a twenty-first-century reader to take in, the French Revolution’s proposal that democracy should be realized in the world was still, to its opponents, unnatural and terrifying. The people who ruled France during the Restoration were self-consciously reacting against the democratic idea itself, and not merely against the violence of the terror with which that idea had been visited upon the king and the aristocracy. In restoring the monarchy, the rulers were restoring a natural social order in which, as God willed, one’s place was determined by one’s birth. Piety, hierarchy, and social immobility were cherished moral values of the age. Seen against this backdrop, Julien looks a lot more sympathetic. He seems to have little choice but to pretend he believes things he doesn’t believe, like the dogmas of the church. If he wants to improve his lowly condition, history decrees he must be a hypocrite. In love, as in religion and politics, he must ignore the empty banalities he is fed and take a hungrily scientific interest in how the gears and levers of social power really work.

Stendhal also softens our view of Julien by refusing to offer morally attractive alternatives. When Julien asserts that “‘the people whom the world honors are merely villains who have had the good fortune not to have been caught red-handed’”, he is both a rebel against his time and, less obviously, a representaative of it. Behind the Restoration’s pious façade there was in fact significant social motion, even if such motion was deemed illegitimate and was officially denied. The increasing prosperity of Julien’s shrewdly business-like father, which complicates the image of Julien’s own rise as unique and unprecedented, is an obvious example, and there are others. An amoral skill in worldly matters—what the French call mondanité—was prized even in ecclesiastical circles, as we see in Stendhal’s accounts of priestly maneuverings over church titles and positions, over land, and, in the case of the Abbé Frilair’s dishonorable intentions with regard to Mathilde, over sex. If Julien differs from the people around him, it is in part by being honest with himself, which is to say (given his place at the novel’s center of consciousness) honest with us. And this honesty helps offset the impact his hypocrisy with others has on us.

To complicate matters further, Stendhal leaves us guessing as to whether Julien’s career might after all embody some higher moral principle than merely getting ahead. What are the deep motives for his social ascent? When his father knocks Julien’s book out of his hands and into the stream beneath the sawmill, the blow is struck not against reading as such; Julien’s talent for memorizing Latin texts, which will do almost as much as his good looks to aid in his rise, has not been discouraged at home. Symbolically, the target is Julien’s passionate attachment to the ideals and accomplishments of the French Revolution and its recently defeated hero, Napoléon. (The book he is absorbed in when caught by his father is a record of conversations with Napoléon from prison.) Stendhal, who had himself marched with Napoléon’s armies in defense of the Revolution, made no secret of his own revolutionary loyalties. Dreaming of a greatness higher than his father’s money-making, Julien acts out his author’s feelings about the sordidness of Restoration France. And in so doing he also acts in the name of upward mobility, which one might have thought entirely consistent with money-making. “Careers open to talent!”, Napoléon’s meritocratic motto, at that moment still sounded (mainly) revolutionary, however ambiguous it may have come to seem since then. Stendhal seemed to think upward mobility could mainly be aligned against money-making. The novel’s early chapters find various ways, subtle and not so subtle, of associating Julien with those still poorer and more unfortunate than himself, like the prisoners on the other side of M. Valenod’s wall, who are stopped from singing so as not to disturb Valenod’s distinguished guests as they carouse. Even the scene in which M. de Rênal decides to hire Julien as his children’s tutor, thereby setting the novel’s plot in motion, is framed by concern—not M. de Rênal’s, of course, but the novel’s—over how the poor of the village are being treated by its constituted authorities. As he climbs his various ladders, Julien somehow carries this concern with him. One of the novel’s ongoing interpretive mysteries is what exactly he is striving for or, more precisely, to what extent his goals transcend the acquisition of money and power for himself.

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Red and the Black (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My book group decided to read 'The Red and the Black,' and I thought it would be fun to read it in French, side-by-side with an English translation for those spots in which my college French failed me. My first disappointment with this edition was the skimpiness of the endnotes -- a total of 12 for a 532-page book. Unless one is a scholar of French history, this is a book that is much easier to appreciate with some background on the politics of the times. I was shocked, however, by the discovery of some glaring errors in the translation. On p. 17, for instance, 'quatre-vingts' (eighty) is translated as 'ninety', while on p. 34, 'dix-neuf' (nineteen) is translated as 'eighteen.' Also, on p. 45, the translated text states that Mme. Renard is taking a walk with M. Renard, while the original French text states that she is taking a walk with M. Valenod! There are even some sentences in the French text that do not appear in the English text. Where were the proofreaders? It is quite possible that the rest of this translation is flawless, but at this point I gave up in frustration and went in search of a different translation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Such disparate souls as Richard Posner and Al Gore have named this as one of their favorite books---but you should read it anyway, as Stendhal's wit, psychology, and narrative verve make reading him unlike reading anyone else. I've not finished the new Penguin translation (much needed), and I think that the Slater translation for Oxford catches the style better; but the notes in the Penguin are interesting, as is the intro, and Gard is certainly better than was Richard Howard with his sloppy translation of The Charterhouse of Parma. No one who enjoys 19th-c. fiction should miss this book, and no one who thinks he doesn't should make up his mind before reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One discovers true compassion of literature after reading a piece of art such as this novel. Breathtaking in suspense of the actions the characters take.... I was truly shocked at the outcome of the book yet it was a beautiful closure. This book will have you truly feeling deep compassion in the motives and outcomes of each individual character.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.It made me apriciate the freedom of choice that I can practice every day. It's hard for Julien's ambition not to rub off on you. Julien is not the typical heroe he makes more mistakes it seems than he triumphs. He moves up in the world through his education and itelligence, very much the same as it is today exept in post revolution France this was an uncommon and great achievement. Julien is a complex charector who shows traits of a real human. The novel is deeply romantic. Julien will rise to the top only to be thrown down by an inevidable misfortune and a rash descision, the tragic flaw which brings about Julien's downfall. Though tragic, the ending is beutiful and unexpected. So that when you close the last page of the book, you have to just sit there and think for a while,until one word comes to mind 'wow'
charlie68 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book that as I read it wasnt sure what to make of it. Is it a treatise of love or a comment on the church? A priest with two mistresses, and no one is shocked, including the author. He becomes the cause celebe at the end.
aseperate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you think you understand love or if you couldn't get through Stendhal's essays on love, try this on for size.
xieouyang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story:This novel narrates the progress of a Julien Sorel, son to a carpenter, who is rather disenchanted with his family and is very ambitious of becoming a person of value. He progresses thanks to his prodigious memory which he uses first to memorize the bible in latin. This impresses the local church and is admitted to a seminary. This also helps him get a job with the local mayor, where he takes advantage of the mayor's wife, Madame de Rhenal, and becomes her lover. He moves from there to a seminary in Besancon but from then he is able to procure a job with the Marquis de la Mole in Paris. There he falls in love with the marquis' daughter who gets pregnant by him. The marquis, needless to say, is not very happy at the prospect of his daughter marrying this commoner, so he tries to buy him off to get Julien to leave France. Julien refuses and while this activities are going on, Madame de Rhenol at the instigation of a priest writes a letter to the marquis denunciating Julien as a scoundrel who left her. When the marquis shows Julien the letter, the latter becomes enraged, acquires a couple of pistols and goes back to Mathilde's town and shoots her in church. He is apprehended and taken to jail. A trial will take place but while in jail, both Mathilde and the Marquis' daughter come to see him. Mathilde, the marquis' daughter, is his wife since she's expecting his child. At this point, Julien realizes that he is really in love with Madame de Rhenal and despises Mathillde. At the trial, despite the efforts of his friends to buy the jury, Julien goes into a diatribe chastising the jury. So he is found guilty and a few days later faces the guillotine. Julien, like most of the other characters in the novel, is very self-centered and egotist. In fact heis almost a mysoginist- he despises nearly everybody, even those he claims to love. His affections for people are mostly ways to get gains for himself. A striking aspect of the novel is the rigidity of the classes in France at that time (and perhaps today too). The only hope for a person born in te low classes was that he'd be found to be the abandoned child of some nobleman- otherwise he is doomed to a life of poverty and privation. Class distinctions play a crucial role throughout the novel, being the impediment for Julien's progress. And perhaps the reason for his continuous resentment.
ffortsa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable view of a romantic young social climber in post-Napoleonic France. I especially liked the way the satire rose with Julien's social surroundings. The historical footnotes were enormously helpful in placing the story in its context.
lysander07 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It seems to be the time to write about the first big novel I have read this year...although I'm already 2 books ahead and otherwise I will loose track completely. As usual - and as I have read the book in German translation - I will write a short comprehension in english, but will discuss everything in German.Stendhal a.k.a. Henri Beyle put the scenery of "Rouge et Noir" in the time of about 1830, the Bourbone restauration in France, and subtitled it as a chronicle of the 19th century - which was still young at his time. But, it was supposed to be a novel taking place right now...and not in the past. Julien Sorell, the unusual intelligent son of a simple wood cutter - at least as being a designated priest he could speak Latin and had an enormous memory that he showed when citing entire parts of the bible by heart (and in Latin) - got the job of a house teacher in the family of the local Mayor M. de Renal. He seduces Mdme. Renal - not really out of love, but more because of his ego - and to avoid a scandal he is forced to leave. He joins the priest seminar - which by the way is one of the most impressive written parts of the book - and finally succeeds in becoming the private secretary of Marquis de la Mole. The Marquis' daugther soon got an eye on Julien and finally - this really takes Julien some time and and also sophisticated strategies - they plan to marry because she became pregnat (by him...). Of course the Marquis is rather dissappointed about this misalliance. Then, he receives a letter written by Mdme. de Renal in which she warnes the Marquis de la Mole about Julien being an imposter, whose only goal is to make carreer out of seducing women in the families where he is put in. Julien also reads the letter and for revenge shoots Mdme. de Renal while she is attending at church. Although she recovers, Julien gets voluntarily adjudged and executed......Die vorliegende neue deutsche Übersetzung von Stendhals Klassiker ""Rot und Schwarz" kann ich allen - egal ob Fan von französoscher Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts oder nicht - nur wärmstens ans Herz legen. Das Buch ist überaus spannend und unterhaltsam geschrieben. Stendhals mitunter kurze und prägnante Art verzichtet auf ausschweifende Schilderungen der Schauplätze ohne jedoch das jeweils für diese typische außer Acht zu lassen. Üppig, intensiv und wohlüberlegt ausgefallen sind alle Dialoge. Man durchlebt die Höhen und Tiefen von Julien Sorells Dasein - auch wenn man seine Gefühle, seinen Antrieb heute nicht immer recht verstehen kann. Die französische Revolution, Napoleons Kaiserreich und die anschließende Restauration - auf die eine weitere Revolution folgen sollte - prägen das gesellschaftliche Bild, das Stendhal zeichnet. Der Karrierist und bürgerliche Emporkömmling wird ebenso scharf charakterisiert wie der alteingesessene Adel, der ewige Streit zwischen Jesuiten und Jansenisten verfolgt die Handlung wie das gerade im Entstehen begriffene Genre des Stutzers und modebewußten Dandytums. Und natürlich die Frauen...alle scheinen sie in Julien verliebt. Angefangen von der unscheinbaren Kammerzofe, über Mdme. de Renal, einer Kaffeehausangestellten, einer verwittweten Generalin, bis hin zur Marquise de la Mode...alle weiß Julien von sich einzunehmen...und zu enttäuschen. Das Ende jedoch - laut Stendhal Bestandteil der dem Buch zugrundeliegenden wahren Begebenheit - bleibt mir rätselhaft. Wie bereits geschildert versucht Julien Mdme. de Renal in der Kirche zu ermorden und sieht danach, obwohl diese sich von ihren Verletzungen erholt und ihm vergibt, keinen anderen Ausweg, als sich dem Gericht zu überantworten und selbst auf seine Verurteilung zum Tode zu bestehen. Natürlich...nicht gerade ein 'Hollywood'-gerechtes Ende. Aber eindringlich und wirklich kurzweilig erzählt. Besonders hervorzuheben sind in dieser Ausgabe die vielen Zugaben. Neben einem ausführlichen Anhang mit Erklärungen und Anmerkungen Stendhals (die man im laufenden Text jeweils nachschlagen kann..) bietet die A
vaellus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Stendhal had the rare talent of making even the trivial and mundane vibrate with meaning. Cold-eyed brilliance and smouldering passion (though not without moments of wildfire), this novel. I need not wonder why the famous French historian Hippolyte Taine read it more than 20 times. This is a masterpiece beyond question.There are several (I counted at least six in print) English translations of this novel. I recommend comparing excerpts. Some of the translations seemed less than engaging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
[Night] <p> Coolio, Won't tell a soul.
jacobcohen44 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book despite being uncertain of the subject matter. It was very contemporary in many respects and the characters are great. Much of the story matches today's American push for success and dealing with all the vipers and cutthroats that kind of environment creates.
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Red the color of the time when ages the blood of angry men. Black the color of dark nights!:) chse
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