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This review is taken from PN Review 104, Volume 21 Number 6, July - August 1995.

MUSIC OUT OF NOWHERE JONATHAN KEATES, Stendhal (Sinclair-Stevenson) £20

Two qualities combine to make Jonathan Keates the ideal biographer of Stendhal: his love of music and of Italy. But not all facets of the great writer inspire him to the same extent.

Lovers of the marvellous Vie de Henry Brulard, Stendhal's account of his growing-up years in Grenoble, will be puzzled by a reference here to 'the house on the place Grenette with its terrace overlooking the square'. But Dr Gagnon's famous terrace does not, and never did, overlook the place Grenette: it fronts the Jardin. de Ville and quite crucially so. Which seems to suggest that Keates at this moment is less than deeply involved. He would never be so careless in Milan.

Luckily half the Life is set in Italy to the accompaniment of music and, though Keates may be cool on Grenoble, he handsomely appreciates the city's current most famous inhabitant Victor del Litto, whose critical work on behalf of Stendhal he correctly describes as 'stupendous'. He has also made excellent use of del Litto's magazine Stendhal Club, a gift to the biographer with its quarterly record of every latest Stendhalian discovery.

But again Keates's Stendhal isn't mine. That is why I take so personally his treatment of Brulard, from which he quotes all the right bits without in the least conveying the feel of Grenoble. We all know that Stendhal hated the place, so why should not Keates hate it too? But Stendhal at least brought it memorably ...


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