Monday, August 28, 2006

Scarlet and Black post I

This week I am sticking with the French theme but have been forced to go back into the 19th century because I do not have that extensive a library. I really wanted to start some Proust but believe it or not bookshops just don't have that much Proust and neither did my local library so while I wait for it to arrive via Amazon the delights of Stendhal's Scarlet and Black will have to do.

Also to add insult to injury it has been a bank holiday weekend so I have not got that far into the book so apologies for the slow start.

Bullet points between pages 1 - 62

* The introduction to the novel includes some biographical stuff about the author but is at pains to stress that context that the book was written around. Coming in 1825-30, after the turbulent years of Napoleon the country was split between liberals and royalists and the church had also been dragged into the debate. As a result there are numerous references to people's politics throughout the book. The main point is that because the Napoleonic era had ended the country and particularly the provinces where this story is set, reacted to the times and acted in a particular way.

Ever since Napoleon's downfall, provincial usage had rigorously banned all manifestations of gallantry. Everyone is afraid of being turned out of his post. Scoundrels seek the support of the Jesuit party, and hypocrisy has made enormous strides, even among the educated classes. Boredom is twice as great as ever, and no pleasures remain save farming and reading. pg62

* The setting of the story, the village of Verrieres, is sketched out with the mayor M. de Renal top of the political tree

* As things develop the mayor has a run-in with the priest over politics and creates some distance from other wealthy landowners and in a move to impress decides to appoint the latin loving son of the carpenter Julien Sorrel as a tutor to his two sons

* Sorrel's home life of abuse at the hands of his father and brother is made clear so the difference with the home of the de Renal family is at first jaw dropping for him

* Something starts to develop between the tutor and the mayor's wife but it is all very innocent and both are too naive to understand what is happening and the danger of the feelings that are starting to emerge, particularly Sorrel, who is ten years her junior

The question of their relationship developing seems inevitable but what will the consequences of that be? maybe we will find out tomorrow...

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