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Fiction and the Themes of Freedom


With a New Introduction


Fiction and the Themes of Freedom


With a New Introduction
Victor Brombert is a lion in the study of French literature, and in this classic of literary criticism, he turns his clear and perspicacious gaze on the works of one of its greatest authors—Stendhal. Best remembered for his novels The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal is a writer of extraordinary insight into psychology and the many shades of individual and political liberty. Brombert has spent a lifetime reading and teaching Stendhal and here, by focusing on the seemingly contradictory themes of inner freedom and outer constraint within Stendhal’s writings, he offers a revealing analysis of both his work and his life.

For Brombert, Stendhal’s work is deeply personal; elsewhere, he has written about the myriad connections between Stendhal’s ironic inquiries into identity and his own boyhood in France on the brink of World War II. Proceeding via careful and nuanced readings of passages from Stendhal’s fiction and autobiography, Brombert pays particular attention to style, tone, and meaning. Paradoxically, Stendhal’s heroes often feel most free when in prison, and in a statement of stunning relevance for our contemporary world, Brombert contends that Stendhal is far clearer than any writer before him on the “crisis and contradictions of modern humanism that . . . render political freedom illusory.” Featuring a new introduction in which Brombert explores his earliest encounters with Stendhal—the beginnings of his “affair” during a year spent as a Fulbright scholar in Rome—Stendhal remains a spirited, elegant, and resonant account.

224 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 1968, 2017

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory, Romance Languages


“Very searching, indeed excellent.”

V. S. Pritchett | New York Review of Books

“Most intelligent and perceptive. . . . One of the principal merits of Brombert’s study is that it offers us in surprisingly brief space a view of Stendhal’s art as a whole and of the way in which all the individual works, fiction and nonfiction alike, form a coherent pattern.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Brombert has written a book which is authoritative, incisive, imaginative . . . , a book that is at once profoundly scholarly, and refreshingly unpretentious. Brombert’s approach to Stendhal is eminently felicitous, for it combines the same qualities that distinguish the writer's own method: directness graced by lightness of touch, sympathy enlivened with wit, enthusiasm controlled by critical intelligence. . . . An exceptionally rich and stimulating book.”

Gita May | Modern Language Quarterly

“Stimulating, speculative, and scholarly, this book is a model exercise in thematic criticism.”

F. W. Saunders | French Studies

“[This work] will delight the knowledgeable reader. . . . Brombert is especially stimulating in his treatment of the role of Italy in Stendhal’s life and works.”

Wallace Fowlie | Commonweal

Table of Contents

Introduction: Encounters with Monsieur Beyle

1. The Temptations of Autobiography
The Voices of the Self
Autobiography as Fiction

2. ARMANCE: The Apprenticeship of Fiction
False Paths
An Apprenticeship
Armance: Freedom and Self-esteem

3. LE ROUGE ET LE NOIR: The Ambiguities of Freedom
Levels of Tension
Freedom through Tension
The Discoveries of Freedom

4. LUCIEN LEUWEN: The Dilemmas of Freedom
First Impressions
Identity and Emancipation

5. CHRONIQUES ITALIENNES: The Exuberance of Freedom
The Myth of Italy 
The Italian “Stories”: Apprenticeship for La Chartreuse

6. LA CHARTREUSE DE PARME: The Poetry of Freedom 
A Mental Landscape
The Freedom to Become

7. Epilogue



Works by Stendhal

Bibliographic Note, 2017

Selected Reading


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