The Red and the Black, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (8 ratings)


Charting the rise and fall of an ambitious young social climber in a cruel, monarchical society, Stendhal's "The Red and the Black" is translated with an introduction and notes by Roger Gard in "Penguin Classics".

Handsome, ambitious Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble provincial origins.

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

His triumphant career takes him into the heart of glamorous Parisian society, along the way conquering the gentle, married Madame de Renal, and the haughty Mathilde.

But then Julien commits an unexpected, devastating crime - and brings about his own downfall. "The Red and the Black" is a lively, satirical portrayal of French society after Waterloo, riddled with corruption, greed and ennui, and Julien - the cold exploiter whose Machiavellian campaign is undercut by his own emotions - is one of the most intriguing characters in European literature. Roger Gard's fine translation remains faithful to the natural, conversational tone of the original, while his introduction elucidates the complexities of Julien's character.

This edition also contains a chronology, further reading and an appendix on Stendhal's use of epigraphs.

Stendhal (1783-1842) was the pseudonym of Henri Marie Beyle, born and raised in Grenoble.

Offered a post in the Ministry of War, from 1800 onwards he followed Napoleon's campaigns throughout Europe before retiring to Italy.

Here, as 'Stendhal', he began writing on art, music and travel.

Though not well-received during his lifetime, his work, including "The Red and the Black" (1830) and "The Charterhouse of Parma" (1839), now places him among the pioneers of nineteenth-century literary realism.

If you enjoyed "The Red and the Black", you may like Guy de Maupassant's "Bel-Ami", also available in "Penguin Classics".


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 608 pages, endnotes
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780140447644



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Showing 1 - 5 of 8 reviews.

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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 Ausgabe noch Entstehungs- und Wirkungsgeschichte, sowie Stendhals eigene Rezension des Werkes. Also: Lesebefehl!

Review by

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.

Review by

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.

Review by

I should reread this one, since I read it in...French in Portugal, about 40 years ago. There just weren't all that many books in the small fishing village in which I was spending a lot of that summer, and I was desperate. I liked the book a lot, but I suspect I didn't get a lot of the nuances, given the state of my French (primitive) and my lack of a French/English dictionary to consult. But the memory of those long days, and the beautiful ocean, combine very pleasantly in my mind, drenched in a perpetual sunlight having nothing to do with the plot.

Review by

I don't like 19th century novels. I have tried to explain this many times and got scolded by a certain somebody. My main problem is having any kind of sympathy for the oh-so-rich-yet-so-trapped aristocracy. You are rich, you can do a lot of things without others questioning you, yet you are so oppressed by your "circumstances," by which we mean belonging to a class that imposes a moral and cultural code on you. Well, isn't everyone oppressed by their class (and those above)? So isn't being rich just simply better? Why are these people whining and complaining? How come they are so bored? I don't know, it is hard to get it. I simply failed many times. I understand one is always constrained by peers, society, tradition, class, etc., but it is much easier for rich people to bend the rules; always has been, always will be. I suppose the early novels were all about these people, like early art was all about religion, so there is no escaping this subject. <br/><br/>What made The Red and the Black stand out is that the main character, despite his high intellect and ambitions, was almost as lost as I was about these high society people and their moral codes. Stendahl does a very good job explaining the things that always puzzle me. Why certain things are not talked about, how the aristocracy thinks of itself and what that means even at the height of emotion or passion, who owes whom what, etc. There is a lot of politics, some of which is apparent, and some, were lost to me (as I do not read every footnote!) In the end, I think I kind of got why people did what they did, well, until the end... <br/><br/>What's most puzzling, to me at least, is who Julien loves. In a way, this novel is about a sociopath who will charm his way into any household or bosom to get ahead and rise above his "caste." So is he capable of loving anyone? It is clear that he is prone to bouts of hating himself. And others. Towards the end his love seemed fickle to me. And perhaps that's because I didn't get it entirely, perhaps not. And the women? I think Mathilde is easy to figure out eventually (if you can get over the "hypocrisy"). But Madame Renal? Who knows... Religion messes with your head? Is that the lesson here?<br/><br/>Don't sleep with other people's wives. Don't try to rise above your class. Rural and urban high classes are different, but a sorry bunch nevertheless. Religious authorities are a bunch of scheming petty folk. <br/><br/>A bleak outlook on humanity, with very nice nature scenes. Though, I must admit, a page turner as well.

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