Tag Archives: Stendhal

I took a playing card on the back of which I drew

Stendhal’s depiction of the process of falling in love, ending in crystallization from On Love[1].

What a likable drawing. And in this particular case it may even be true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Stendhal describes or compares the “birth of love” in a new relationship as being a process similar or analogous to a trip to Rome. In the analogy the city of Bologna represents indifference and Rome represents perfect love. In the words of the narrator who writes the words of Madame Gherardi on the back of a playing card:

“While Signora Gherardi was speaking, I took a playing card on the back of which I drew Rome on one side, Bologna on the other and between Bologna and Rome, the four stages which Signora Gherardi had listed.” –tr. Isidor Schneider

Why are the towers in Bologna falling?

Mind the process of it all. The narrator (or is the narrator Stendhal himself?) hears someone speaking, takes a card and makes a drawing of what is said. Stendhal puts the words in the mouth of the narrator and reproduces the drawing. Depiction – ekphrasis – depiction.

Book illustrations are always somewhat of a pleasant surprise in works of literature. It is the only drawing in On Love, which sadly is not available in a public domain English edition.

Kant’s disinterestedness

L’indifférent (1717) by Antoine Watteau

I’ve always been baffled by Kant’s notion of disinterestedness. And then I remembered that Nietzsche was just as baffled. Here is that passage from On the Genealogy of Morality:

Kant‘s famous definition of the beautiful. “That is beautiful,” says Kant, “which pleases without interesting.” Without interesting! Compare this definition with this other one [..] by Stendhal, who once called the beautiful une promesse de bonheur. Here, at any rate, the one point which Kant makes prominent in the aesthetic position is repudiated and eliminated—le désinteressement. Who is right, Kant or Stendhal?”