Stendhal, born Marie Henri Beyle, is a notable French author of the early nineteenth century.

He was born in Grenoble on January 23, 1783. His mother died seven years later; he was taken care of by a pious aunt, who entrusted his education to a Jesuit priest. Unfortunately, he grew to hate both of them, and at the age of sixteen went to Paris (ostensibly to study at the Ecole Polytechnique). There, he promptly moved in with an influential relative, Pierre Daru, who gave him a job at the Ministry of War. In 1800 he joined the cavalry of Napoleon as a lieutenant; he remained for eighteen months. After that, he resigned and worked as a grocer's assistant, all the while entertaining ambitions of being as famous as Moliere. In '08 he rejoined the army, in time to see the meteoric rise and crushing fall of the Grande Armee. When Napoleon was exiled for the first time, he left the army and did not join Napoleon when the latter returned.

Instead, fed up with poor work, he settled in Italy and wrote a travel novel about it (under the pseudonym Stendhal). The situation in Italy started heating up for political non-conservatives. More and more arrests were made, and in 1821 Metternich kicked him out of Italy(ruled by Austria at the time). During this period, he experienced several painful love affairs, which made him decide to, well, write a book about it. So he did, and a dry and analytical one at that (apt softlink--Love sucks!, except the passionate kind). On Love was published in 1822.

The next eight years were largely uneventful--he kept writing. In 1830 he published one of his great novels, The Red and the Black, a powerful political and psychological novel that chronicled Napoleonic Italy through the eyes of a young man (hero and murderer). He started Lucien Leuwen in 1834, never finishing it. In September of 1838 he has an idea that later becomes the plot of The Charterhouse of Parma, written in the next 52 days. This is his masterpiece; a satire, adventure (in a strange sort of way), and a political novel all in one. He satirizes Romanticism constantly and to good effect.

March 22, 1842: Stendhal collapses in the middle of a Paris street and dies a few hours later.

Stendhal makes a really big accent on the individual and the power of the will. This is ironic, considering his dislike of Romantics; the latter incorporated his influence nevertheless. He is regarded as a worshipper of Napoleon, but this is not entirely true: he admired him when Napoleon was his most heroic and legendary, and hated him when he became an oppressor. Stendhal was disgusted with the impotence of the political scene of his adult life, and satirized it extensively. His work shows him to be a profound observer of psychology.

Read some.

To the happy few.

Howe, Irving. Politics and the Novel. New York: 1967.

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