The Red and the Black

By Stendhal,

Book cover of The Red and the Black

Book description

Traces the ascent and descent of a young, aspirational social climber in a harsh, monarchical country.

Julien Sorel, a handsome and aspirational man, is determined to overcome his lowly provincial upbringing. He soon realises that the only way to succeed is to follow the sophisticated code of hypocrisy that governs…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Red and the Black as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I read this book years ago in high school, and my eyes were opened. The hero, Julien Sorel, is—like I was when I read the novel—naïve, confused, trusting, inexperienced, and prone to awkwardness and error. In short, I could relate to someone in circumstances (boarding school!) where I desperately needed someone who was highly imperfect with whom I could identify.

It might have been the first time I read an adult book where I felt I might actually meet the main character one day, walking down the street or even in the hallway.

From Richard's list on 19th century French novels.

The Red and the Black (or Le Rouge et le Noir) was published by French author Stendhal in 1830. The action across the two volumes takes place from 1814 to 1830, so the 1820s are included. The title refers to the two competing ambitions of the hero, Julien Sorel, who can’t decide whether he wants the glamour and excitement of a military career (red uniform) or the moral calm of life as a priest (black cassock). I was forced to read this in French at school and hated it, but when I returned to it in English years later…

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