This novel is beyond sublime. Although I am a great lover of literature(duh) very rarely have I been so completely and utterly surprised, enthralled and bewitched by a classic. A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen were similar epiphanies. Perhaps it comes from expecting nothing at all and receiving everything in return. However, je divague.
The title says it all whilst saying almost nothing. Le Rouge et le Noir: a young man’s choice between the scarlet red of the militia and the sober black of religion. A secret admirer of Napoleon, his life choices will always be made not with the intent of duplicating his hero’s path but rather with the intent of surpassing the old emperor’s glory. He will be torn in his love life as well, hesitating between two women who represent diverging aspects of his character. To a certain extent manipulative and hypocritical, Julien Sorel is almost an anti-hero. His crime however does not lie in his faults but rather in his great misunderstanding of the world and of himself.
I recommend this book to patient readers. At times, the novel may seem to be wearily advancing. Be that as it may, the magnificent finale is worth the journey.
“There is no place in contemporary French society for a superior man born without the advantages of money and social connections.¹”