Thursday, 18 October 2001

Stendhal: The Pink and the Green (1830/1837)

Translation:Richard Howard, 1988
Edition: Hamish Hamilton, 1988 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 964

Stendhal worked twice on the story of Mina (de) Wangel, writing first a completed, but put away and unpublished, short story, and then, seven years later, beginning a novel (by which time the aristocratic "de" was lost). Both are presented here, in reverse chronological order, just as they were first published in French.

The plot is one which is typical of romantic novels from earlier in the nineteenth century, with Mina, a rich German heiress, despairing of ever finding a suitor who is not after her money, coming to Paris where no one knows her. In the short story, she even pretends to be her own sacked maid. The scenario enables Stendhal to make lots of digs at the hypocrisy of French society (a constant sarcastic refrain in the German scenes is "of course, nothing like this has ever happened in France").

Each version of the story is amusing, but the initial chapters of the novel are much better written, the extra space making it possible for Stendhal to improve the characterisation of Mina greatly.

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