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The Red and the Black


The Red and the Black


As a novel, Stendahl’s The Red and the Black has it all: love and romance, political intrigue, deft detective work, and incisive social commentary.

Published in 1830, Stendhal’s tale illustrates handsome, ambitious Julien Sorel’s rise to success as he leaves his humble provincial origins behind.

Understanding that success can only be achieved by adopting the subtle codes of hypocrisy by which Parisian society operates, he begins to achieve swift advancement through deceit and self-interest.

His triumphant efforts take him into the heart of glamorous Parisian society.

Along the way he seduces and conquers both the married Madame de Renal, and the haughty Mathilde.

But then Julien commits a brash and unexpected crime—a devastating act that soon brings about his own downfall.

The Red and the Black is a masterfully satirical portrait of a French society riddled with corruption, greed and ennui, after Waterloo, and of Julien—the uncaring exploiter whose Machiavellian campaign is undercut by his own emotions.


STENDAHL (1783-1842) pen name of Henri Marie Beyle, was born in Grenoble and educated at the École Centrale. He took a post in the Ministry of War, where he followed Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy, Germany, Russia and Austria. After the fall of Napoleon, he retired to Italy, adopted his pseudonym and started to write books on Italian painting, Haydn and Mozart. In 1821 he was expelled from the country, and upon returning to Paris finished his book De l’amour. This was followed by Racine et Shakespeare, a defense of Romantic literature. The Red and the Black, Souvenirs de l’egotisme and La Vie de Henri Brulard, were published later, as his worldwide fame and notoriety grew.

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