Headstrong and naive, the young Italian aristocrat Fabrizio del Dongo is determined to defy the wrath of his right-wing father and go to war to fight for Napoleon. He stumbles on the Battle of Waterloo, ill-prepared, yet filled with enthusiasm for war and glory. Finally heeding advice, Fabrizio sneaks back to Milan, only to become embroiled in a series of amorous exploits, fuelled by his impetuous nature and the political chicanery of his aunt Gina and her wily lover. Judged by Balzac to be the most important French novel of its time, The Charterhouse of Parma is a compelling novel of extravagance and daring, blending the intrigues of the Italian court with the romance and excitement of youth.
Henri Marie Beyle (1783-1842) had a post in the Ministry of War and followed Napoleon's campaigns before retiring to Italy. Here, as 'Stendhal', he began writing on art, music and travel. He later wrote novels, literary criticism, and various biographical and autobiographical works. John Sturrock is Consulting Editor for the London Review of Books, a literary critic, travel writer, and translator. His translations for Penguin include novels by Stendhal and Hugo, one volume of the new Proust translation: Sodom and Gomorrah, and most recently (with Jeremy Harding) a volume of Rimbaud's poems and letters (0140448020).