To us, as to Stendhal, Scarlet and Black is a clear reflection of the „blue of the skies and the mire of the road below”.
It mirrors, rather than paints, mobile and revealing glimpses of life as it was wiled away in the climate of fear and greedy drawing-room conformity that followed Waterloo. Julien Sorel, the novel's restless, ambitious hero, rebels against his circumstances and wills himself to make something of his life by adopting a code of hypocrisy. On the road to the surprising crime he commits (out of passion, principle or insanity), he turns into Stendhal's greatest and most completely human creation.
Margaret Shaw's brilliant translation keeps intact the colloquial style of the writer who, in an age of Romantics, set the pattern for later realists such as Flaubert and Zola.