Returning in 1822 to France, Stendhal plunges into the atmosphere of literary struggle. Official Paris met its writer unfriendly, here rumors have already come about the “dubious” Italian acquaintances of Stendhal. The writer does not inspire the French policemen with more confidence than the Austrian detectives. Willy-nilly Stendhal has to be extremely careful. He is published in English journals without signing his articles. The “masking” was so thorough that it was only a century later that the author of these articles was identified and they were translated into French and published in the writer’s homeland.
In the years 1823 and 1825, Stendhal publishes his literary pamphlets in Paris entitled Racine and Shakespeare. In fact, these pamphlets become the program of a new literary school, which, rejecting the principles of classicism, advocated the democratization of art. Stendhal, following his Italian friends-Carbonarians, believed that classicism
was the literature of the dead, and romanticism was the literature of the living. In romantic art, he was primarily attracted by the laughter and irony of Falstaff, vivid personality like Othello and Macbeth, whose actions are unpredictable.
And yet, what did Stendhal mean by contrasting classicism with romanticism? By definition of the writer himself, “romanticism is the art of giving people such literary works that, with the current state of their customs and beliefs, can give them the greatest pleasure.”
Romanticism cultivated all the exceptional, individual, contradictory and rebellious. However, the work of Stendhal himself and his aesthetic program went far beyond the framework of romantic ideas about the tasks of verbal art.
Stendhal saw in Shakespeare, who, in his opinion, created “a lot of subtle pictures of heart disturbances and tenderest shades of passion,” a worthy teacher for writers of a new direction. Especially important for the new art, Stendhal believed Shakespeare’s ability to express the inner world of the hero, imitating nature. However, this same
requirement is one of the most important principles of classicism. Is there any contradiction in the arguments of Stendhal?
The point is how to understand this requirement. The writer clearly understood it in his own way: to imitate nature is to be natural, to select for the artistic work from life the most typical, original, characteristic and at the same time individual. Art, argued Stendhal, “there is a beautiful lie” in the sense that the writer creates an otherwise reality in its most characteristic features, and does not copy reality. Such art is easily recognized and perceived by his contemporaries.
The socially important social issues, Stendhal argued, should not appear before the readers as predetermined schemes, “slogans” reflecting the author’s sympathies or antipathies, but as a part of the intellectual burden organically caught by the whole system of work. In this sense, Stendhal’s works of art are “samples of presentation of acute political situations in an intimate lyrical plan.” The goal of the realistic artist, Stendhal believed, was to bring the reader to understand the life drama of the narrator to understand the concrete socio-historical conditions in which the writer’s hero lives and acts.