Stendhal

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This article is about the writer. For the German city, see Stendal.
Marie-Henri Beyle
Stendhal.jpg
Stendhal, by Olof Johan Södermark, 1840
Born (1783-01-23)23 January 1783
Grenoble, France
Died 23 March 1842(1842-03-23) (aged 59)
Paris, France
Occupation Writer
Literary movement Realism
Romanticism

Marie-Henri Beyle (French: [bɛl]; 23 January 1783 – 23 March 1842), better known by his pen name Stendhal (French: [stɛ̃dal] or [stɑ̃dal],[1] in English also [ˈstɒ̃dɑːl],[2] /stɛnˈdɑːl/,[3] and /stænˈdɑːl/[4]), was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism, as is evident in the novels Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839).

Life[edit]

Born in Grenoble, Isère, he was an unhappy child, disliking his "unimaginative" father and mourning his mother, with whom he was passionately in love, and who died when he was seven. He spent "the happiest years of his life" at the Beyle country house in Claix near Grenoble. His closest friend was his younger sister, Pauline, with whom he maintained a steady correspondence throughout the first decade of the 19th century.

Plaque on Vilnius house where Stendhal stayed in December 1812 during Napoleon's retreat from Russia

The military and theatrical worlds of the First French Empire were a revelation to Beyle. He was named an auditor with the Conseil d'État on 3 August 1810, and thereafter took part in the French administration and in the Napoleonic wars in Italy. He travelled extensively in Germany and was part of Napoleon's army in the 1812 invasion of Russia.[5]

After the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, he left for Italy, where he settled in Milan. He formed a particular attachment to Italy, where he spent much of the remainder of his career, serving as French consul at Trieste and Civitavecchia. His novel The Charterhouse of Parma, written in 52 days, is set in Italy, which he considered a more sincere and passionate country than Restoration France. An aside in that novel, referring to a character who contemplates suicide after being jilted, speaks about his attitude towards his home country: "To make this course of action clear to my French readers, I must explain that in Italy, a country very far away from us, people are still driven to despair by love."

Besides many others, Beyle used the pseudonym "Stendhal". Scholars in general believe he borrowed this nom de plume from the German city of Stendal in homage to Johann Joachim Winckelmann.

Stendhal was a dandy and wit about town in Paris, as well as an inveterate womaniser who was obsessed with his sexual conquests. His genuine empathy towards women is evident in his books; Simone de Beauvoir spoke highly of him in The Second Sex. One of his early works is On Love, a rational analysis of romantic passion that was based on his unrequited love for Mathilde, Countess Dembowska, whom he met while living at Milan. This fusion of, and tension between, clear-headed analysis and romantic feeling is typical of Stendhal's great novels; he could be considered a Romantic realist.

Stendhal suffered miserable physical disabilities in his final years as he continued to produce some of his most famous work. As he noted in his journal, he was taking iodide of potassium and quicksilver to treat his syphilis, resulting in swollen armpits, difficulty swallowing, pains in his shrunken testicles, sleeplessness, giddiness, roaring in the ears, racing pulse and "tremors so bad he could scarcely hold a fork or a pen." Indeed, he dictated Charterhouse in this pitiable state. Modern medicine has shown that his health problems were more attributable to his treatment than to his syphilis.

Stendhal died on 23 March 1842, a few hours after collapsing with a seizure on the streets of Paris. He is interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.

Works[edit]

Contemporary readers did not fully appreciate Stendhal's realistic style during the Romantic period in which he lived; he was not fully appreciated until the beginning of the 20th century. He dedicated his writing to "the Happy Few" (in English in the original). This is often interpreted as a sly dedication to the few who understood or appreciated his writing. This can be interpreted as a reference to Canto 11 of Byron's Don Juan, which refers to "the thousand happy few" who enjoy high society, or to the "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" line of Shakespeare's Henry V, but Stendhal's use more likely refers to The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith, parts of which he had memorized in the course of teaching himself English. In The Vicar of Wakefield, "the happy few" refers ironically to the small number of people who read the title character's obscure and pedantic treatise on monogamy.[6] As a literary critic, such as in Racine and Shakespeare, Stendhal championed the Romantic aesthetic by unfavorably comparing the rules and strictures of Racine's classicism to the freer verse and settings of Shakespeare, and supporting the writing of plays in prose. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche acknowledged his personal debt to the French writer in the Twilight of the Idols (when referring to Dostoevsky as the only psychologist from whom he had something to learn), stating that encountering him (Dostoevsky) was "the most beautiful accident of my life, more so than even my discovery of Stendhal".[7]

Today, Stendhal's works attract attention for their irony and psychological and historical dimensions. Stendhal was an avid fan of music, particularly the works of the composers Cimarosa, Mozart and Rossini. He wrote a biography of Rossini, Vie de Rossini (1824), now more valued for its wide-ranging musical criticism than for its historical content.

In his works, Stendhal reprised excerpts appropriated from Giuseppe Carpani, Théophile Frédéric Winckler, Sismondi and others.[8][9][10][11]

Novels[edit]

Novellas[edit]

Biography[edit]

Autobiography[edit]

Stendhal's brief memoir, Souvenirs d'Égotisme (Memoirs of an Egotist) was published posthumously in 1892. Also published was a more extended autobiographical work, thinly disguised as the Life of Henry Brulard.

Non-fiction[edit]

  • Rome, Naples et Florence (1817)
  • De L'Amour (1822) (On Love)
  • Racine et Shakespéare (1823–1835) (Racine and Shakespeare)

His other works include short stories, journalism, travel books (Promenades dans Rome), a famous collection of essays on Italian painting, and biographies of several prominent figures of his time, including Napoleon, Haydn, Mozart, Rossini and Metastasio.

Crystallization[edit]

In Stendhal's 1822 classic On Love he describes or compares the “birth of love”, in which the love object is 'crystallized' in the mind, as being a process similar or analogous to a trip to Rome. In the analogy, the city of Bologna represents indifference and Rome represents perfect love:

Stendhal's depiction of "crystallization" in the process of falling in love.

When we are in Bologna, we are entirely indifferent; we are not concerned to admire in any particular way the person with whom we shall perhaps one day be madly in love; even less is our imagination inclined to overrate their worth. In a word, in Bologna “crystallization” has not yet begun. When the journey begins, love departs. One leaves Bologna, climbs the Apennines, and takes the road to Rome. The departure, according to Stendhal, has nothing to do with one’s will; it is an instinctive moment. This transformative process actuates in terms of four steps along a journey:

  1. Admiration – one marvels at the qualities of the loved one.
  2. Acknowledgement – one acknowledges the pleasantness of having gained the loved one's interest.
  3. Hope – one envisions gaining the love of the loved one.
  4. Delight – one delights in overrating the beauty and merit of the person whose love one hopes to win.

This journey or crystallization process (shown above) was detailed by Stendhal on the back of a playing card while speaking to Madame Gherardi, during his trip to the Salzburg salt mine.

Stendhal syndrome[edit]

Main article: Stendhal syndrome

In 1817 Stendhal reportedly was overcome by the cultural richness of Florence he encountered when he first visited the Tuscan city. As he described in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio:

As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart (that same symptom which, in Berlin, is referred to as an attack of the nerves); the well-spring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground.

The condition was diagnosed and named in 1979 by Italian psychiatrist Dr. Graziella Magherini, who had noticed similar psychosomatic conditions (racing heart beat, nausea and dizziness) amongst first-time visitors to the city.

In homage to Stendhal, Trenitalia named their overnight train service from Paris to Venice the Stendhal Express.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The pronunciation [stɛ̃dal] is the most common in France today, as shown by the entry "stendhalien" ([stɛ̃daljɛ̃]) in the Petit Robert dictionary and by the pronunciation recorded on the authoritative website Pronny the pronouncer, which is run by a professor of linguistics and records the pronunciations of highly educated native speakers. The pronunciation [stɑ̃dal] is less common in France today, but was presumably the most common one in 19th-century France and perhaps the one preferred by Stendhal, as shown by the at the time well-known phrase "Stendhal, c'est un scandale" as explained on page 88 of Stendhal: The Red and the Black by Stirling Haig. On the other hand, many obituaries used the spelling "Styndal", which clearly indicates that the pronunciation [stɛ̃dal] was also already common at the time of his death (see Literaturblatt für germanische und romanische Philologie, Volumes 57 to 58 [in German], p. 175). Since Stendhal had lived and traveled extensively in Germany, it is of course also possible that he in fact pronounced his name as the German city [ˈʃtɛndaːl] using /ɛn/ instead of /ɛ̃/ (and perhaps also with /ʃ/ instead of /s/) and that some French speakers approximated this but that most used one of the two common French pronunciations of the spelling "en" ([ɑ̃] and [ɛ̃]).
  2. ^ "Stendhal: definition of Stendhal in Oxford dictionary (British & World English) (US)". Oxforddictionaries.com. 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  3. ^ "Stendhal: definition of Stendhal in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US)". Oxforddictionaries.com. 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  4. ^ "Stendhal - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  5. ^ Talty, Stephan. The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army. Three Rivers Press (CA), ISBN 9780307394057, p. 228, quote="We resemble our lackeys," wrote the novelist Stendhal, an officer in the commissariat, who was still among the luckiest men on the retreat, having preserved his carriage. "We are far removed from Parisian elegance."
  6. ^ Martin, Brian Joseph. Napoleonic Friendship: Military Fraternity, Intimacy, and Sexuality in Nineteenth- Century France. UPNE, 2011, p. 123
  7. ^ Common, Thomas. Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist. Dover, 2004, p. 46
  8. ^ Randall (2001) p.199 quote:

    If the plagiarisms of Stendhal are legion, many are virtually translations: that is, cross-border plagiarism. Maurevert reports that Goethe, commenting enthusiastically on Stendhal's Rome, Naples et Florence, notes in a letter to a friend: 'he knows very well how to use what one reports to him, and, above all, he knows well how to appropriate foreign works. He translates passages from my Italian Journey and claims to have heard the anecdote recounted by a marchesina.'

  9. ^ Victor Del Litto in Stendhal (1986) p.500, quote (translation by Randall 2001 p.199):

    used the texts of Carpani, Winckler, Sismondi et 'tutti quanti', as an ensemble of materials that he fashioned in his own way. In other words, by isolating his personal contribution, one arrives at the conclusion that the work, far from being a cento, is highly structured such that even the borrowed parts finally melt into a whole a l'allure bien stendhalienne

  10. ^ Hazard (1921)
  11. ^ Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, Floriane Place-Verghnes (2006) Poétiques de la parodie et du pastiche de 1850 à nos jours p.34

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ann Jefferson, Reading Realism in Stendhal (Cambridge Studies in French), Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  • Joanna Richardson, Stendhal: A Biography, Gollancz, 1974. ISBN 0-575-01870-4

External links[edit]