Marie-Henri Beyle, born on January 23, 1783, is commonly known as Stendhal. But the French author used over a hundred pseudonyms: Anastasius Serpiere, Louis Alexandre Bomber, William Crocodile, Baron de Cutendre, Poverino… His authorship of some books and articles was discovered only in the twentieth century. After the publication of Rome, Naples, Florence, he used the pseudonym M. de Stendhal, Officier de Cavalerie. The only book that he published under his real name was The History of Painting.
His most famous book, Le Rouge et le Noir, was inspired by the crime section of a local newspaper. I just love that! Sure, anything can spur inspiration, and crime reports are an often prompt, but I never imagined that they inspired this book. Red and Black is also considered the first psychological novel.
Interestingly, Stendhal hated priests and went out of his way to avoid them. That animosity originated in childhood since his education included reading the Bible.
The author was a dandy, social butterfly, and big womanizer. In a true Romanticism manner, he despaired and lost his mind because of love. But Stendhal was also a realist and ironic, which is a unique mixture, noticeable in his works. Like many in those days, Stendhal contracted syphilis and had many health problems, most of them caused by the various treatments more than by the very illness.
Stendhal was enlisted in Napoleon’s army during the invasion of Russia in 1812 and witnessed the burning of Moscow. However, he wasn’t a soldier but part of the administration.
Monsieur Stendhal is also responsible for the word tourist. Since his book Memoirs of a Tourist was published, the word became common. He wrote many travel guides, articles, and essays since that was his bread and butter. Stendhal often wrote about art, which had an important place in everything he wrote. Works of art could excite him so much that he would fall into a stupor, a condition called Stendhal syndrome.
“A good book is an event in my life.
“A novel is a mirror walking along a main road.”
“To write a book is to risk being shot at in public.”
“A novel is like a bow, and the violin that produces the sound is the reader’s soul.”