Stendhal

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Birth Date:
23.01.1783
Death date:
23.03.1842
Extra names:
Stendhal, Stendāls, Marī Anrī Beils, Marie-Henri Beyle
Categories:
Writer
Nationality:
 french
Cemetery:
Paris, Cimetière de Montmartre

Marie-Henri Beyle (French: [bɛl]; 23 January 1783 – 23 March 1842), better known by his pen name Stendhal (French: [stɛ̃dal] or [stɑ̃dal], in English also [ˈstɒ̃dɑːl], /stɛnˈdɑːl/, and /stænˈdɑːl/), was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism, as is evident in the novels Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839).

Life

Born in Grenoble, Isère, he was an unhappy child, disliking his "unimaginative" father and mourning his mother, with whom he was passionately in love, and who died when he was seven. He spent "the happiest years of his life" at the Beyle country house in Claix near Grenoble. His closest friend was his younger sister, Pauline, with whom he maintained a steady correspondence throughout the first decade of the 19th century.

The military and theatrical worlds of the First French Empire were a revelation to Beyle. He was named an auditor with the Conseil d'État on 3 August 1810, and thereafter took part in the French administration and in the Napoleonic wars in Italy. He travelled extensively in Germany and was part of Napoleon's army in the 1812 invasion of Russia.

After the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, he left for Italy, where he settled in Milan. He formed a particular attachment to Italy, where he spent much of the remainder of his career, serving as French consul at Trieste and Civitavecchia. His novel The Charterhouse of Parma, written in 52 days, is set in Italy, which he considered a more sincere and passionate country than Restoration France. An aside in that novel, referring to a character who contemplates suicide after being jilted, speaks about his attitude towards his home country: "To make this course of action clear to my French readers, I must explain that in Italy, a country very far away from us, people are still driven to despair by love."

Besides many others, Beyle used the pseudonym "Stendhal". Scholars in general believe he borrowed this nom de plume from the German city of Stendal in homage to Johann Joachim Winckelmann.

Stendhal was a dandy and wit about town in Paris, as well as an inveterate womaniser who was obsessed with his sexual conquests. His genuine empathy towards women is evident in his books; Simone de Beauvoir spoke highly of him in The Second Sex. One of his early works is On Love, a rational analysis of romantic passion that was based on his unrequited love for Mathilde, Countess Dembowska, whom he met while living at Milan. This fusion of, and tension between, clear-headed analysis and romantic feeling is typical of Stendhal's great novels; he could be considered a Romantic realist.

Stendhal suffered miserable physical disabilities in his final years as he continued to produce some of his most famous work. As he noted in his journal, he was taking iodide of potassium and quicksilver to treat his syphilis, resulting in swollen armpits, difficulty swallowing, pains in his shrunken testicles, sleeplessness, giddiness, roaring in the ears, racing pulse and "tremors so bad he could scarcely hold a fork or a pen." Indeed, he dictated Charterhouse in this pitiable state. Modern medicine has shown that his health problems were more attributable to his treatment than to his syphilis.

Stendhal died on 23 March 1842, a few hours after collapsing with a seizure on the streets of Paris. He is interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.

Works

Contemporary readers did not fully appreciate Stendhal's realistic style during the Romantic period in which he lived; he was not fully appreciated until the beginning of the 20th century. He dedicated his writing to "the Happy Few" (in English in the original). This is often interpreted as a sly dedication to the few who understood or appreciated his writing. This can be interpreted as a reference to Canto 11 of Byron's Don Juan, which refers to "the thousand happy few" who enjoy high society, or to the "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" line of Shakespeare's Henry V, but Stendhal's use more likely refers to The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith, parts of which he had memorized in the course of teaching himself English. In The Vicar of Wakefield, "the happy few" refers ironically to the small number of people who read the title character's obscure and pedantic treatise on monogamy.[6] As a literary critic, such as in Racine and Shakespeare, Stendhal championed the Romantic aesthetic by unfavorably comparing the rules and strictures of Racine's classicism to the freer verse and settings of Shakespeare, and supporting the writing of plays in prose. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche refers to Stendhal as "France's last great psychologist" in his 1886 work, "Beyond Good and Evil" and acknowledged his personal debt to the French writer in the Twilight of the Idols (when referring to Dostoevsky as the only psychologist from whom he had something to learn), stating that encountering him (Dostoevsky) was "the most beautiful accident of my life, more so than even my discovery of Stendhal".

Today, Stendhal's works attract attention for their irony and psychological and historical dimensions. Stendhal was an avid fan of music, particularly the works of the composers Cimarosa, Mozart and Rossini. He wrote a biography of Rossini, Vie de Rossini (1824), now more valued for its wide-ranging musical criticism than for its historical content.

In his works, Stendhal reprised excerpts appropriated from Giuseppe Carpani, Théophile Frédéric Winckler, Sismondi and others.

Novels
  • Armance (1827)
  • Le Rouge et le Noir (variously translated as Scarlet and Black, Red and Black, The Red and the Black, 1830)
  • Lucien Leuwen (1835, unfinished, published 1894)
  • La Chartreuse de Parme (1839) (The Charterhouse of Parma)
  • Lamiel (1839–1842, unfinished, published 1889)
Novellas
  • The Pink and the Green (1837, unfinished)
  • Mina de Vanghel (1830, later published in the Paris periodical La Revue des Deux Mondes)
  • Vanina Vanini (1829)
  • Italian Chroniques, 1837–1839
    • Vittoria Accoramboni
    • The Cenci (Les Cenci, 1837)
    • The Duchess of Palliano (La Duchesse de Palliano)
    • The Abbess of Castro (L'Abbesse de Castro, 1832)
Biography
  • A Life of Napoleon (1817–1818, published 1929)
  • A Life of Rossini (1824)
Autobiography

Stendhal's brief memoir, Souvenirs d'Égotisme (Memoirs of an Egotist) was published posthumously in 1892. Also published was a more extended autobiographical work, thinly disguised as the Life of Henry Brulard.

  • The Life of Henry Brulard (1835–1836, published 1890)
  • Souvenirs d'Égotisme (Memoirs of an Egotist, published in 1892)
  • Journal (1801–1817) (The Private Diaries of Stendhal)
Non-fiction
  • Rome, Naples et Florence (1817)
  • De L'Amour (1822) (On Love)
  • Racine et Shakespéare (1823–1835) (Racine and Shakespeare)

His other works include short stories, journalism, travel books (Promenades dans Rome), a famous collection of essays on Italian painting, and biographies of several prominent figures of his time, including Napoleon, Haydn, Mozart, Rossini and Metastasio.

Crystallization

In Stendhal's 1822 classic On Love he describes or compares the “birth of love”, in which the love object is 'crystallized' in the mind, as being a process similar or analogous to a trip to Rome. In the analogy, the city of Bologna represents indifference and Rome represents perfect love:

When we are in Bologna, we are entirely indifferent; we are not concerned to admire in any particular way the person with whom we shall perhaps one day be madly in love; even less is our imagination inclined to overrate their worth. In a word, in Bologna “crystallization” has not yet begun. When the journey begins, love departs. One leaves Bologna, climbs the Apennines, and takes the road to Rome. The departure, according to Stendhal, has nothing to do with one’s will; it is an instinctive moment. This transformative process actuates in terms of four steps along a journey:

  1. Admiration – one marvels at the qualities of the loved one.
  2. Acknowledgement – one acknowledges the pleasantness of having gained the loved one's interest.
  3. Hope – one envisions gaining the love of the loved one.
  4. Delight – one delights in overrating the beauty and merit of the person whose love one hopes to win.

This journey or crystallization process (shown above) was detailed by Stendhal on the back of a playing card while speaking to Madame Gherardi, during his trip to the Salzburg salt mine.

Stendhal syndrome

In 1817 Stendhal reportedly was overcome by the cultural richness of Florence he encountered when he first visited the Tuscan city. As he described in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio:

As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart (that same symptom which, in Berlin, is referred to as an attack of the nerves); the well-spring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground.

The condition was diagnosed and named in 1979 by Italian psychiatrist Dr. Graziella Magherini, who had noticed similar psychosomatic conditions (racing heart beat, nausea and dizziness) amongst first-time visitors to the city.

In homage to Stendhal, Trenitalia named their overnight train service from Paris to Venice the Stendhal Express.

Source: wikipedia.org

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