Le grand Meaulnes

ISBN: 0543896161
ISBN 13: 9780543896162
By: Alain-Fournier

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About this book

À la fin du XIXe siècle, par un froid dimanche de novembre, un garçon de quinze ans, François Seurel, qui habite auprès de ses parents instituteurs une longue maison rouge - l'école du village -, attend la venue d'Augustin que sa mère a décidé de mettre ici en pension pour qu'il suive le cours supérieur : l'arrivée du grand Meaulnes à Sainte-Agathe va bouleverser l'enfance finissante de François... Lorsqu'en 1913 paraît le roman d'Alain-Fournier, bien des thèmes qu'il met en scène - saltimbanques, fêtes enfantines, domaines mystérieux - appartiennent à la littérature passée, et le lecteur songe à Nerval et à Sylvie. Mais en dépassant le réalisme du XIXe siècle pour s'établir, entre aventure et nostalgie, aux frontières du merveilleux, il ouvre à un monde d'une sensibilité toujours frémissante, et qui n'a pas vieilli.

Reader's Thoughts

Jim Coughenour

Alain-Fournier's novel evokes a lost world, not only the inevitable loss of childhood but also a lost world of fiction, specifically 19th century boy's fiction: adventure stories full of treasure, mysterious maps, mysteries barely glimpsed, adolescent hero worship, and love that knows nothing of lust. David Copperfield; Kidnapped; Kim. A year after it was published, its young author disappeared into the carnage of the first world war, buried in a mass grave. Unlike Swann's Way (also published in 1913), The Lost Domain remains on the far side of the cataclysm, a world that can only be experienced in tremulous fantasy. Love is the way we recognize what is lost.I can't remember reading a book where my response was so divided. For the first 100 pages I was entranced by its magic, and then I was impatient with its slow, preposterous, sentimental development. By the end I was incredulous – the story is inane, ludicrous, sentimental, but the way in which it's told is a conjuration.

Guillermo Jiménez

Si hubiera que escoger la 'Gran Novela Francesa de Formación Sentimental' definitivamente sería El gran Meulnes. Gracias a la editorial Mondadori en su colección de Clásicos se ha rescatado en una edición cuidadísima la historia de Francois Seurel y Agustin Meulnes, que estaba ya olvidada en una edición de Bruguera.La búsqueda de un ideal, del amor, la aventura que significa pasar de la adolescencia a la edad adulta: una especie de relectura del Tom Sawyer y el Huckleberry Finn trasladados a la Francia antes de la gran guerra. Indispensable lectura para gozar por las tardes de sol... o para rememorarlas.

Helynne

Although Le Grand Meaulnes (sometimes translated as The Wanderer or The Lost Estate) was written in 1913, which was more in the decadent or modernism era, this lovely, mysterious novel falls definitely into the category of late Romanticism. Just one year after publishing his one and only novel, young Henri Alain-Fournier was killed in a World War I battle at Epargnes in 1914. The literary world is so much the poorer for his loss as well as for the loss of many more novels he surely would have written. The title character in Le Grand Meaulnes is a 17-year-old student, Augustin Meaulnes, who arrives at a boys' school in rural France, about 1910. Meaulnes is worldly and charismatic, and soon has all the boys wanting to be his friend. The narrator of the story is Meanlnes's best friend Francois Seurel, a sickly 15-year-old boy upon whom Meaulnes seems to have a healing effect. Francois carefully chronicles all the elated and brooding emotions of his moody new friend. One day, Meaulnes takes a cart and horse from the school and disappears for three days without explanation. When he returns, Meaulnes seems dazed and forlorn. He relates to Francois how he accidentally stumbled upon a beautiful old house--what he will later call "the lost domain" --in the middle of a forest. Meaulnes sneaked into an engagement party that was going on there. The party had a dreamy, surrealistic feel to it until Meaulnes heard from the sad, young groom that the wedding was off because the fiancee fled. Meaulnes also met and talked to beautiful Yvonne de Galais, the sister of the would-be groom. But before he could really get to know her, she disappeared and he had to stumble his way back to the school. The original 1960s film version of this novel is a beautiful tribute to the spirit of Alain-Fournier's story. As Meaulnes tells in flashback his experience at the lost domaine, the footage is shot in a blurred style, like a Monet painting, to indicate his dreaminess and confusion during his disoriented and ethereal state. (I have also read that the 2006 film version is disappointing; too bad!) The events that subsequently continue to bring together and pull apart Meanlnes, Yvonne, Franz, and his would-be bride Valentine, and various "bohemian" youth of the region continue in Francois's narrative for the next three years until the story comes to its melancholic conclusion. This is beautiful piece of writing in terms of coming-of-age, adolescent angst, and the typical Romantic search for the unattainable ideal. Highly recommended.

Micky

I had to give up after 150 pages, just couldn't handle reading any more of this rubbish. I read a plot synopsis which reassured me that I was right to give up - it descends into the kinds of ridiculous plot contrivances that really annoy me.I don't think translation has anything to do with it. Whatever the langauge, the story and prose are still going to be the same, as well as having the same unrealistic, flat, expository dialogue suitable for children.Other annoyances:• Lead character is 'Great' for what exactly? This books just declares his greatness and expects us to be as gushy about him as the dull narrator is.• Lead character falling in love with a 'most beautiful woman ever', having only just met her.• Not much character development.• There is nothing mysterious about the Lost Estate.• Nauseating romanticism.

Nancy Oakes

One of the few books to which I have given 5 stars in a long while, Le Grand Meaulnes is likely one of the best books I've read in a very, very long time. Set in France of last century, the story is narrated by one Francois Seurel, the son of the local schoolmaster. Seurel's father takes in a new boy, Augustin Meaulnes, who is also known as "le grand Meaulnes." He's the kid in every group who is fearless and who is looked up to by all of the other kids, and he and Francois become very close friends. On one occasion, he becomes lost, and wandering around in the forest, comes across a very strange scene: in front of a neglected-looking, rather large house, he finds children of all sorts, dressed up in finery of bygone times. It is here that he meets a mysterious girl and falls in love. The festivities end somewhat abruptly; Augustin is given a ride home and once back at the school, he cannot put together where he had just been. He becomes obsessed with finding not only the house, but the girl as well, and this quest lasts into his adulthood. An amazing piece of writing, it is a book to be read and re-read. The characters are alive and vivid, and you can feel what they feel throughout the novel. It is humorous at times, sometimes tragic, but has something that will most likely resonate with anyone with a soul or a memory of your first love. HIGHLY recommended; an incredible book.

MJ Nicholls

Le Grand Meaulnes is supposed to be untranslatable, and this translation by French classics legend Robin Buss doesn’t convince me otherwise. The novel hinges upon the titular Meaulnes being such a charming force of character in a lower-class school, his name echoes down the ages and his antics and adventures make him a much-beloved geezer in the province. Doesn’t quite work. But the narrator François is certainly smitten and describes Meaulnes’s first love in fits of florid descriptive prose worthy of Huysmans. Alain-Fournier (who died in the First War after this was published) seeks to capture the end of adolescence in a wistful and romantic way, and many passages in this short-chapter novel succeed at creating a dreamy forgotten arcadian paradise that might raise a tear or two, depending how pleasant your past was. But the novel lacks cohesion or credible characters, so the end result is a hotchpotch of moments within a sentimental bildungsroman frame, with a lapse or two into melodrama.

Simon Mcleish

Originally published on my blog here in September 2002.The Catcher in the Rye has been an important novel in the lives of many of its readers, helping to re-define ideas of what teenagers are like in the English-speaking world. To a French person a generation or so earlier, Le Grand Meaulnes, which is also about growing up, might well have had a similar effect. A further similarity between Alain-Fournier and J.D. Salinger is that the one novel amounts to virtually their entire output, though in the case of the French author this was because of his tragic early death on the Western Front rather than the reclusiveness of Salinger's later years.The narrator of the novel is Francois Seurel, the son of a schoolmaster. He is approaching the end of his education when a new pupil arrives at the school. Augustin Meaulnes quickly becomes the leader of the boys in their wildest escapades in the countryside around the school. On one of these adventures Meaulnes becomes lost and ends up at a ruined country estate which is being prepared for a bizarre wedding. (This is why a filmed version of the novel was entitled The Lost Domain.) There he meets a young woman and falls in love, but once he returns to the outside world he is unable to find the chateau again, even though he becomes obsessed with the search.There are three things which mark Le Grand Meaulnes out as a classic. The first is its evocation of childhood, particularly the magical nature of some of our experience in that period which often produces nostalgic feelings in later life. The second is in the symbolic nature of the domain itself, which is really the same thing: it stands for that which is left behind on entering adulthood, something which we can never find again no matter how hard we search. The third reason, also connected, is the relationship between Seurel and Meaulnes. This is one of idealistic hero worship on Seurel's part; there aren't quite homoerotic overtones, but it comes close (and of couse, as narrator, Seurel would be able to censor the story as he chooses). It is something typical of adolescence; though one would usually expect one of them to be younger than the other, here Seurel is given a slight infirmity which makes his hero worship of a contemporary more credible.Le Grand Meaulnes has rather suffered for non-French readers for two reasons. Alain Fournier's untimely death meant that he didn't generate the international reputation during his lifetime that he might well have done; it is easy enough to believe that he might have produced work equalling the front rank of twentieth century French novelists. The other problem is that two key phrases are difficult (if not impossible) to translate. One is crucially the title, because "grand" is being used to carry far more than its dictionary translations, "big" or "great". The choice made here is to keep the French title (also marred for English speakers because the character's name is nearly phonetically equivalent to "moan"); this can only be off-putting. Other titles which have been used are The Wanderer, which is rather vague, and The Lost Domain, which introduces the other untranslatable phrase. This is "domain", used of the run down chateau and (crucially) the world it evokes in itself and as a symbol. The problem is again the baggage which goes with the word; the literal equivalent "country estate" has different connotations in English. For Alain-Fournier, it also designates an unreal world beside our own, like that Faerie of George MacDonald. In this domain the normal rules do not quite apply; once experienced, it is never forgotten, remaining an influence for ever. This is what Alain-Fournier has to say about childhood, and he uses the domain as a symbol to do so.Salinger provided Holden Caulfield with a mission - to proclaim that adults are not always right, that teacher does not always know best. Alain-Fournier's characters are gentler, less iconoclastic. Even though they do things against the wishes of adults, the novel is from a world long before the kind of cynical teenage rebellion documented by Salinger. Since Salinger's picture of the teenager has gone on to become so dominant in modern culture, Le Grand Meaulnes has something of the air of a period piece. Yet as an evocation of the magic of adolescence, it remains an unsurpassed classic.

Katri

A strange, haunting book about adolescence and growing up, and about the enchantment and madness of spending your life on supposedly grandiose but ultimately self-absorbed romantic quests at the expense of your happiness and especially that of other people.I must say I did not like the character of Meaulnes at all. I think he's obnoxious, self-absorbed and empty, and there's no reason for everyone to be worshipping him as much as they do. It didn't detract my enjoyment of this book, though, because there are such people in real life, especially at that age it's often those who don't deserve it who get everyone's worship, and I found it fascinating to observe the effects of Meaulnes's character on everyone around him, and the results of his quest. I liked François, the narrator. He's Meaulnes's complete opposite: selfless, unpretentious, doesn't call attention to himself and devotes himself to other people's happiness rather than his own. I found something deeply touching and sympathetic about this withdrawn boy who is so blindly devoted to the undeserving Meaulnes, quietly worshipful of the more deserving Yvonne, and generally has much more regard for the stories of everyone else than his own. It contrasted wonderfully with Meaulnes's attitude, and gave the book a dimension it would not have if it had only been a story of Meaulnes. In the latter case I'd probably have thrown it at a wall at some point, because Meaulnes on his own is annoying. Also, I don't often like first-person narration, but because the first-person narrator was the completely unselfish and un-self-absorbed François rather than the typical "Oh, woe is me!" first-person narrator, I found this very refreshing. I liked the stories of a lot of the minor characters in this book - Yvonne, Franz, Valentine, I even felt quite sympathetic towards Jasmin Delouche whom Meaulnes snubs so much for no reason. I would have liked to know more about how the final resolution of the story came about, though, more about what happened in the time passed in between and how these characters had changed.I read the book in its original French - I suspect you should do this if you possibly can. In the early part it took me quite some time to get into the story, but it may have been largely because then my French reading was a bit rusty and I had to focus more on understanding. As I progressed I became able to just read without thinking about it, and found it quite engrossing.

Cristina

Mi ricordo l'inverno nei corridoi della Statale, tra un corso e l'altro a volte c'erano "buchi" lunghi da riempire e il cielo era grigio e cupo a Milano. Ecco, ricordo di averlo letto, divorato, in uno di quei momenti.Non importa quello che oggi potrei pensare di questo romanzo, voglio continuare a pensarlo con tutta la tenerezza che mi ha trasmesso, con tutti i voli della fantasia che mi ha permesso, con quei corridoi freddi che voglio ricordare per sempre.

Frances

I, ok. I don't think I am smart enough to have enjoyed this book. To see the beauty in this novel.Is it because it's the quintessential French novel, and I'm not French? Like, at all?Is it because I CANNOT STAND BOOKS WHERE A SIMPLE CONVERSATION WOULD HAVE SOLVED EVERYTHING?This, at the end of the day, was just dull. "The Great Meaulnes" was, in fact, just a boy who refused to commit and instead gloried in wallowing in self-pity.Yawn.

Claire McAlpine

Impossible to read without some comprehension of the short life and ambitions of Alain-Fournier and thanks to an excellent introduction by Hermione Lee, we are given that context through which to read his story.It is a story of a childhood and adolescence told through one who observes, follows and understands. His friend Meaulnes, the dreamer, the adventurer runs away from school and encounters a grand estate in the throes of festivity and meets a beautiful girl, thereafter he is consumed by both and tries to find them.It is a nostalgic read, somewhat melancholy, infused with an air of pending tragedy - and reminiscent of the life of the author. It is symbolic, not just of the end of childhood and romantic notions, but also the end of an era of narrative style, published at the same time as Proust's Swann's Way, the first volume of In Search of Lost Time.Swann's Way would come to be seen as one of the great pioneering landmarks of the modernist movement, Le Grand Meaulnes as the end of a romantic tradition. To some readers, later in the century, Le Grand Meaulnes felt like a cul-de-sac, a direction no longer possible after the war; they dismissed it as old-fashioned, escapist, and insufficiently experimental. To others, the novel felt, itself, like a lost domain, the domain of nostalgic, rural writing, romantic yearning, and childlike purity. - Hermione LeeMy complete review here at Word by Word.

Lorna

It gets an extra star for the gormanghast-esque whimsical party section, but the rest of the book didn't quite do it for me. It has that odd pacing of books from the late 1800s where you're not always sure what has just happened, although I am willing to blame the translation. It has some lazy devices including a really boring narrator and a whole end section told by means of a diary. It definitely took me to life for a provincial French young boy, but on reflection, perhaps I'm not that interesting in the lives of provincial French young boys...

Adrian

There is a time for every book. This one I read it to late, way to late, but somehow it managed to captivate me so much that I felt I traveled back in time, at a stage of my life where everything was possible, where I used to create an image of a girl and fell deeply in love with it, and project that image on every desirable girl that I would meet in my way.Augustin Meaulnes was a lucky guy: the context in which he meet he's love doesn't need any kind of idealization. The mysterious, magic world in which miss Yvonne de Galais lived it was more than an imagination could build, even a great one, like Meaulnes had.(Only a madly in love teenager could imagine a story like this. And indeed, Yvonne de Galais had a real model. The author, Alain Fournier, was deeply in love with a certain.. Yvonne de Quiévrecourt!)The most passionate novels are those in which the author tells his own story, in wich he reveal the experiences who marked his life in a direct or indirect way. One of the proofs is Alain Fournier's story about a dreamer and his love.

Snehal Bhagat

This was a trying exercise; the central theme - essentially, that childhood may be transient but immaturity can be forever, is not unworthy of elaboration, but the execution is poor. The main character is under-developed, the gender roles are an illustration in stereotyping, the ideals espoused are cloyingly quaint and the rapid shifts in mood and tone are unsettling.There isn't much by way of literary merit, at least not in the translated version, and the significance lies elsewhere; written just before the first world war broke out, it captures something of a world that, while it had been changing rapidly, still had some place for the occult, for magic, and mystery, within ordinary sensibility, and in so doing makes apparent the extent to which secular edification following the two great wars has hastened that process of change. It also highlights how much the form of the novel has itself evolved in the past century- certainly no work that relies on a hint of mystery and yet gives away the plot of each chapter in its title (We Are Caught In An Ambush) is likely to get published these days, and this is the least of its deficiencies. Fowles' Magus, loosely based on this, is therefore a tribute, but also a counterpoint, and certainly the more engaging read.

Clare

I first heard this story dramatised as a radio play and came to the novel only recently. Whilst I had found the original dramatisation overblown and melodramatic I found myself deeply enjoying Fournier's work. My translation seemed mostly sympathetic with some interesting footnotes on the tenor of the original french.On one level the novel has a certain magical quality - particularly in it's descriptions of the "domain" and party as discovered by le Grande Meaulnes. There is a lyrical, enchanted quality very similar to fairy tale and indeed, as the reader we are invited to wonder if this is a construction of Meaulnes himself, his friend Francois (whose viewpoint dominates the book) or Fournier. I felt that at points Fournier is pointing towards a different, grimier story underneath the romance and beauty. The passages concerning Meaulnes' diary entries in Paris and the scene of domestic violence as he leaves on his search for Frantz are cleverly constructed through the viewpoint of Francois who is caught between wishing to portray his friend as the hero of a great romance whilst also acknowledging the possiblity, never fully fleshed out, that he is unworthy of this accolade.As in many coming of age novels, we catch Francois on the cusp of growing up - leaving the once all consuming adulation of his friend behind him and finding that the world of adults (unlike that of romance) is full of contradiction, lack of sentiment and mishap. As ever, the question is whether Francois will allow himself to grow up.

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