The Charterhouse of Parma

The Charterhouse of Parma

Paperback - 2000
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Richard Howard's exuberant and definitive rendition of Stendhal's stirring tale has brought about the rediscovery of this classic by modern readers. Stendhal narrates a young aristocrat's adventures in Napoleon's army and in the court of Parma, illuminating in the process the whole cloth of European history. As Balzac wrote, "Never before have the hearts of princes, ministers, courtiers, and women been depicted like this...one sees perfection in every detail."

With beautiful illustrations by Robert Andrew Parker.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2000, c1999.
Edition: Modern Library pbk. ed. --
ISBN: 9780679783183
0679783180
Branch Call Number: FIC Stend
Characteristics: xiv, 532 p. : ill., maps. --
Additional Contributors: Howard, Richard 1929-

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the best writing in the book is that of the battle of waterloo, on a par with Tolstoy's war prose.

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rplohmann
May 24, 2015

The Charterhouse of Parma is the fictional tale of an Italian nobleman, Fabrice del Dongo, a “frivolous libertine,” in his own words, in the time of Napoleon. The tale follows Farbrice’s coming of age, his adventures and his dalliances, and the corruption, nepotism, privilege, sentimentalism of his milieu, and his ultimate demise. The young man, of pleasing form and agreeable conduct, cuts a romantic figure under the aegis of his aunt, the reigning beauty of the court of Parma. She, herself, is smitten with her young charge. Fabrizio cuts a swath through admiring maidservants, camp followers, damsels, and rich young heiresses throughout the narrative, oblivious of the agitation he leaves in his wake. Early on, his fling with a young actress leads to a fatal encounter with her protector. Fabrice’s subsequent imprisonment leads to a chance encounter with another local damsel, Clelia, the daughter of his jailer and rival to his aunt in beauty.
Their subsequent infatuation is conducted at the distance between the windows of her private chambers and his prison cell by their soulful expressions, cipher and fragments of song created for the occasion. Fabrice’s escape, plotted by his aunt and his new inamorata, employs all the romantic devices the author can muster – the midnight descent from the tower by rope, the hairbreadth escape, the enveloping fog. His subsequent appointment to high Church position through the offices of his aunt’s paramour, the prime minister, brings about his ascent to a secure position. His liaison with Clelia leads to a sorrowful denouement.
Fabrice’s career is framed by the court intrigues, the jealousies and hatred, rivalries, bribery, the liaisons and treachery that defined court life at the time as seen by the author in his long residence in Italy. This tale is a strange mixture of romance and cynicism, of courtly lovers shadowed by thugs, chivalry darkened by the ruse and subterfuge of assassins and spies. This novel, published in 1839, requires familiarity with the history and the political and social currents of the time – the reality upon which the fiction is based.

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