One of his five best books on early love and the perilous flush of infatuation, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Red and the BlackRead about the other books on Banville's list.
by Stendhal (1839)
Julien Sorel must be one of the most caddish heroes of any 19th-century novel—how one wishes that he and Thackeray's Becky Sharp had got together, for what a pair they would have made! Stendhal was a great cynic, and his portrayal of the love affair between the young Julien, son of a humble carpenter, and Mme. Rênal, wife of the Mayor of Verrières, a provincial backwater, is a powerful evocation of carnal obsession and at the same time a sly parody of the romantic fictions of the day. One of the dark delights of the book is in following the stages by which a clever and ruthless young man makes his way up the social ladder, yet it is a mark of Stendhal's greatness that, for all Julien's beady-eyed ambition, his affair with Mme. Rênal convinces in its immediacy and erotic intensity. Black the book may be at its heart, but in its passion it is a burning shade of scarlet.
The Red and the Black is among Warren Adler's five best books about ambition and Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature.