Stendhal, slave to love and the pursuit of happiness, an elusively attractive figure, is here reanimated in all his triumphs and contradictions. This intelligent, exceptionally well-written biography presents the full operatic flow of a life of lasting accomplishment.Stendhal, slave to love and the pursuit of happiness, an elusively attractive figure, is here reanimated in all his triumphs and contradictions. This intelligent, exceptionally well-written biography presents the full operatic flow of a life of lasting accomplishment.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 1997-02-10 In his own obituary, Henri Beyle famously wrote, "L'amour a fait le bonheur et le malheur de sa vie." But Beyle (1783-1842) is rather more famous for The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma, novels he wrote under the pen name Stendhal. In his lifetime his reputation was slow in coming, as he pursued passion-the chief preoccupation of his fiction-at cost to his career, and published his best work in his last years, when he was beyond womanizing except on paper. Not a dashing figure and never flush enough to squander much on mistresses, he attracted lovers through means never persuasively established by his biographer, who is best known for writing on travel (Venice) and music (Handel). Instead, the evocation of place is one of the strengths of Keates's prose. Whether at the time he was a minor Napoleonic functionary, a journalist and critic or French consul in the humdrum Italian port of Civitavecchia, being in love "regardless of the outcome" was "a necessary condition" for Stendhal, yet his fiction treated the symptoms with what Keates calls "sardonic worldliness." (The recognition would cause Balzac to declare that if Machiavelli were to write a novel, it would be La Chartreuse de Parme.) Among Stendhal's writings were painfully frank memoirs that Keates exploits effectively, although, he confesses, with a "love and admiration" for his subject. At 59, Stendhal, aware of his failing heart, wrote to a friend, "I find there is nothing ridiculous about dropping dead in the streets, as long as one doesn't do it deliberately." He died on the Rue Neuve-des-Petits Champs in Paris. A writer to the end, he had just composed his 21st will. (Apr.)
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