Culture Club: Stendhal - More Than a Thriller Writer

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), February 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

Culture Club: Stendhal - More Than a Thriller Writer


SO tending towards the monoglot - in a purely practical if not cultural European sense - is our educational system, that the name of the French author Henri Marie Beyle, or even the nom de plume Stendhal (1783-1842) will not raise much response, apart from a vague memory of The Scarlet and The Black (1830) on television some years ago.

But Francophiles and Francophones may have more luck recalling La Chartreuse de Parme, 1839, filmed in 1947 with France's most improbably handsome Gerard Philippe as the swashbuckling Fabrizio del Dongo (an unfortunate name given our hero's attachment to women), intent on experiencing the Battle of Waterloo as a mere spectator.

But La Chartreuse, or The Charterhouse of Parma, is more than a sword-wielding bodice-ripper, for Stendhal was an intellectual and a spy in France's rival Italy in the tradition of MI6, working in the Ministry of War and his books are suffused with penetrating psychological analysis and powers of observation, both handy in the spying trade.

Now BBC Northern Ireland's justly acclaimed drama division - having produced Stephen Wright's hallmark adaptation of Stewart Parker's Pentecost with Stephen Rea and Frances Tomelty - is contributing a two-part dramatisation of this story of intrigue by Lake Como to BBC Radio 4 on succeeding Sunday afternoons, a perfect retreat from February's inclement weather. …

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