Stendhal (1783 to 1842, France) wrote two of the highest status classic novels of all times, The Red and the Black and The Charter House of Parma. Like most once I completed these two works I moved on from Stendhal. Recently I read an excellant biography of the great Proust translator C. K. Scott Moncrieff in which I learned that he also translated numerous works by Stendhal. I read his two famous works in new translations but once I read this I decided to make a project of reading or rereading Moncrieff's versions of the eight works by Stendhal translated by Stendhal.
Armance, published initially anomounously, was Stendhal's first novel. Moncrieff thought very highly of Armance and is less than half the length of his famous novels so I decided to read it. Set among wealthy restoration aristocrats, Armance is a beautiful young woman of marriageable age. Octavio is her cousin, a wealthy handsome young man ready for marriage. The novel focuses on the intrigues involved in the marriage market. There is also a veiled suggestion that Octavio's seeming disinterest in women may have come about when he was hit by a carriage. The idea is that the accident rendered him impotent. There is an exciting pistol duel scene and lots of deceptions.
Armance is a romance among the very rich novel, a marriage market work. That is pretty much it. It is not in the class of his two big name works but it was an enjoyable story, the characters were interesting and the prose of Moncreiff is always wonderful. I have been reading a bit of Balzac lately, in older translations, and the elegance of Moncrieff's writings far surpasses them.
My suggestion on this book is first read Stendhal's two major works, then consider this lesser book. I am glad I read it.
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