Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

0111201670-Stendhal.jpg Stendhal (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Stendhal also wrote short fiction, divided by later editors into two groups: his nouvelles written between 1829 and 1831, and the short stories Chroniques italiennes (1839, 1855; The Abbess of Castro, and Other Tales, 1926). Stendhal’s nonfiction works include musical history and criticism, as in Vies de Haydn, de Mozart, et de Métastase (1815; The Lives of Haydn and Mozart, with Observations on Métastase, 1817), Vie de Rossini (1823; Memoirs of Rossini, 1824; also as Life of Rossini, 1956), and Notes d’un dilettante (1824-1827); art history and criticism, as in Histoire de la peinture en Italie (1817) and five subsequent volumes of art appreciation; travel diaries, including Rome, Naples, et Florence en 1817 (1817, 1826; Rome, Naples, and Florence, in 1817, 1818), Promenades dans Rome (1829; A Roman Journal, 1957), Mémoires d’un touriste (1838; Memoirs of a Tourist, 1962), and Voyage dans le midi de la France (1838; Travels in the South of France, 1971); literary theory, including Racine et Shakespeare (part 1, 1823; part 2, 1825; Racine and Shakespeare, 1962); psychological theory, including De l’amour (1822; Maxims of Love, 1906); and autobiography and biography, including Souvenirs d’égotisme (1892; Memoirs of an Egotist, 1949), Vie de Henry Brulard (1890; The Life of Henry Brulard, 1925). In addition, Stendhal’s works of journalism (written between 1822 and 1830), his Journal (1888), and his Correspondance (1933-1934) occupy some six or seven thousand pages.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Stendhal is frequently referred to, along with Fyodor Dostoevski, as “the forerunner of the modern novel.” Insofar as the highest manifestations of the novel form in the twentieth century developed, by way of Thomas Mann, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust, as an exploration of reality that goes beyond the limitations of “realism,” the recognition accorded Stendhal is justified. Half a century before Sigmund Freud, Stendhal’s power of psychological observation was granting as much scope to subconscious and irrational motivation as to more lucidly conceived manifestations of the compelling forces underlying all major human actions. The conversations between his characters rarely reveal more than the tip of the iceberg; what interests him is the long process of maturation in the mind (the monologue intérieur, or interior monologue) that precedes the spoken word.

While his contemporaries Honoré de Balzac and Charles Dickens were realists first and foremost, for Stendhal, realism was at best a means; it was never an end in itself. The result is an exact and compelling portrait of “reality” that at the same time (particularly in the case of The Charterhouse of Parma) is oddly off-key. All of Stendhal’s full-length novels, without exception, are deeply rooted in the world that he observed about him—in Paris, in small French provincial towns, or in the cities and plains of northern Italy. Above all, his political and social depiction of the malaise of his time is penetratingly acute—one of the most profound analyses yet made of a society in a period of political reaction, in which the dominating emotion is that of fear. When the social order is so precarious and at the same...

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

What is the significance of Stendahl’s Racine and Shakespeare?

What explanations of the significance of the title The Red and the Black seem most convincing?

Stendhal claims never to have thought about the writing of novels as a craft. Was he a craftsman who did not realize it?

What is the basis of Stendhal’s psychological knowledge?

Compare the characteristics of Stendhal’s two protagonists in his fiction, Julien and Fabrizzio.


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Adams, Robert M. Stendhal: Notes on a Novelist. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1959. Still one of the best critical introductions, written lucidly, with a biographical chapter and discussions of Stendhal’s major works. Adams includes an appendix identifying the “major slips, inconsistencies, oversights, and verbal faults” in Stendhal’s two major novels.

Alter, Robert. A Lion for Love: A Critical Biography of Stendhal. New York: Basic Books, 1979. A biography that well integrates an analysis of Stendhal’s fiction into the story of his life.

Bell, David F. Circumstances: Chance in the Literary Text. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. Examines the realistic writing of Stendhal and Honoré de Balzac.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Stendhal. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. Essays by distinguished critics on women in Stendhal’s oeuvre, his use of autobiography, and his love plots. Includes introduction, chronology, and bibliography.

Bolster, Richard. Stendhal: “Le Rouge et le noir.” London: Grant and Cutler, 1994. A critical guide to The Red and the Black.

Keates, Jonathan. Stendhal. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1998. A lucid and shrewd biography, emphasizing the events of Stendhal’s life over exegesis of his works. For a review of this work see Magill’s Literary Annual review.

Richardson, Joanna. Stendhal. New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1974. A sound narrative biography with excellent documentation. Includes a bibliography.

Talbot, Emile J. Stendhal Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1993. A revision of a useful introductory work, with a chapter on the man and the writer and separate chapters on Stendhal’s major novels. Contains a chronology, notes, and an annotated bibliography.

Wood, Michael. Stendhal. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1971. A meticulous, scholarly study of Stendhal’s style and structure. Includes notes and brief bibliography. One of the standard works of Stendhal criticism in English.