In December 1827, a French newspaper ran a story about a young man charged with the attempted murder of a married woman. The article fired the imagination of Marie Henri Beyle, and under the pen name Stendhal, he set to writing what was to become one of the great psychological novels of all time. “I will be famous around 1880,” he predicted in one of his many diaries. “I shall not go out of style, nor my glory go out of style.”
Set in a provincial French town and in Paris, The Red and the Black tells the story of Julien Sorel, a handsome and brilliant young tutor who is both hero and villain. Cold, opportunistic, and uncompromising with others—including his influential mistress—he follows his lust for power and wealth. At the same time, he is tortured by his uncontrollable passions, and by the military and religious forces—the enigmatic “Red” and “Black”—that dominate French society in the years following the Revolution.