Sunday with Stendhal: The Spirit of Faction

by Kenneth Anderson

Sundays are a bit slow around OJ, so I thought I might offer (unless my confreres think it too far off topic) a series of indeterminate run, Sundays with Stendhal, featuring quotes from various works of the master.  Stendhal was a diplomat in much of his career, a figure of a transborder European elite culture, and is also a figure who crosses in European history the divide from the Napoleonic world into the genuinely modern world beginning in the 1840s.  It is true that I have a mild obsession with Stendhal.  It is also true that I am, and always will be, in love with Mathilde de la Mole, with whom my beloved wife J-M shares a great many traits. I first read The Red and the Black when I was fourteen or fifteen, the gift of a high school friend who was, like his parents, an unapologetic Stalinist and who despised the New Left in my California college hometown – but who believed in the value of the less-decadent works of the bourgeoisie. I have read The Red and Black at least every other year, and usually once a year, since age fifteen.  So.  That probably explains a lot.  But, in recognition of the election upcoming …:

‘I have a married sister in Provence; she is still pretty, good, gentle … well, as soon as she heard of the execution of Marshal Ney, she began to dance!’

‘Is it possible?’ said the horrified Julien.

‘It is the party spirit,’ replied Altamira, ‘the spirit of faction.’

(From chapter 39, The Ball, The Red and the Black.  I’ll stick in the original French, if I can figure out how to do the diacritical marks.)

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