Saturday, 6 July 2019

THE CHARTERHOUSE OF PARMA by Stendahl

I keep meaning to read Stendhal.  I got a good distance into this book before I googled myself (by means of this blog) and found out I have in fact already read Stendahl.  

And not just Stendahl, but THE CHARTERHOUSE OF PARMA.  In my defense, last time I apparently gave up on p225.  This time I got to p265.  

Yes, I'm not into it.  It's just sort of hard going with lots of silly swashbuckling.  This blog is now almost ten years old and I see it is such a long time period that I have forgotten entire books, but not such a long time that I have changed as a person.  Creepily, not just my verdict and quit point are about the same, but so too are the parts I enjoyed.  Both this time and last I noted this rather fun line, which shows cities don't change so very much:
In front of each of these cafes, crowds of the inquisitive are installed on chairs in the middle of the street, eating ice-cream and criticizing the passers-by. 
This time around I also enjoyed the first hand account of the battle of Waterloo (as Stendahl marched with Napoleon - including on the way back from Moscow - yikes).  I also really enjoyed learning more about the world pre-democracy, where the 'greatest good for the greatest number' was considered a passing 'cult.'  Here is someone telling the main character, a nobleman called Fabrizio, about a government functionary who greatly respects the nobility:
“But when he is front of the prince, or even in front of me, he can’t say no.  Truth to tell, if I’m to produce my full effect,  I have to have the big yellow sash on over my tunic.  In a frock-coat he’d contradict me, so I always put on a uniform to receive him.  It’s not for us to destroy the prestige of power, the French newspapers are demolishing it quite fast enough.  The obsession with deference is hardly going to survive as long as we do, and you, nephew, will outlive deference.  You will simply be a man!
At one point, Fabrizio considers running away to America, and his aunt (with whom he is in an incestuous relationship, but don't worry about that): "explained to him the cult of the god dollar, and the respect that must be paid to merchants and artisans in the street, who by their votes determine everything."  What a nightmare!

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