Why do we love Stendhal?

Danton-levine_png_600x1058_q85Adam Michnik at the New York Review of Books:

We do not love him for his heroism, as he never was an indomitable conspirator for freedom or a martyr of any “right cause.” On the contrary, he shined in the Paris drawing rooms whose boredom he described with great venom; he held public offices although he felt diminished by the lack of appreciation for his own intelligence and former services; at the time of the domination of the “priestly party” he would say sacrilegious things like “God can be excused because he does not exist”—but that never brought any harm upon him. So he was neither a martyr nor a hero. He was a smart and insightful skeptic; he was wise with his wonderful irony and helpless anger. He was able to ridicule mercilessly because he could read the mysteries of the human soul.

We love Stendhal, this expert in pandering, for his lack of hypocrisy, for honesty toward himself, for dignity when confronted with villainy, and for the sense of intrinsic value devoid of narcissism and devastating megalomania.

more here.