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

Trina

Enjoyable on the 2nd read though I didn't like the translation in this edition which added illustrations but failed to render the poignancy of the "lost domain", both symbolic of childhood as well as literal in the home of Yvonne de Galais, the girl that Le Grand Meaulnes falls I love with but can never recover in all its innocence...

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.

Bogna

I read "Le Grand Meaulnes" at school when I was ca 16, the book stood in its own category, the impression it left hard to describe. And then it disappeared - from my life, but strangely enough, also from public interest in Poland. I remembered it again after coming back home from Duino two years later, and wanted to get it, to go back, to decipher it better, but nobody I asked knew it. I kept looking in libraries, book-shops, in vain, not even on the internet for a long dozen of years did anything appear.And then, I entered perchance into one of these book-exchange bazaars here in Warsaw a few years ago, and there it was: "Le Grand Meaulnes", by Alain-Fournier, waiting for me! A Polish edition from 1938, thick, yellow, and stamped all around by various libraries it had belonged to over the 70 years of its existence.I was afraid to read it again, afraid of a disappointment and disenchantment. It took me nearly half a year to start. But my anxiety was needless, it got me even more enchanted - "Le Grand Meaulnes" has the capacity to grow with the reader.The book's own fate seems to go along the mystery it presents, drawn slowly and with delicate sincerity by the Author. The tragedy of the main character, though painted in pastel colours, reveals in fact a different tragedy, quiet and even more pastel. Enough said.A few months after I had read it, I turned on the Polish radio, Programme 2, and heard Iwona Smolka, a well known middle-aged literary critic, starting the programme she has every week with Tomasz Burek and Piotr Matywiecki, also critics and writers, more less thus: "the book we are going to discuss today is not just a classic novel that one has read at the age of 17 and was fascinated though one could not understand, this narrative stayed in memory and has been carried there until one needed to go back and live the adventure of the characters again, seeking to understand. And one does go back and the adventure revives". I trembled, and I was not mistaken.

Claudia

How these characters will haunt me...not a scary kind of haunting, just a gentle shiver of my shoulders haunting. Written by a young man who was killed in WWI, this is, as critics have said, a sentimental novel of love and friendship that only a young man could write, an author who was not jaded by life. Francois meets Augustin, 'le grand Meaulnes,' at school and is immediately intrigued by the mysterious classmate. I kept being reminded of DEMIAN and his pull on Sinclair's imagination. But there aren't the ominous undertones here...there's more of a fairy-tale atmosphere with hidden kingdoms and disappearing princesses. Francois so wants to be like his friend. Francois even falls in love with the girl Augustin loves: the beautiful, doomed Yvonne. Yvonne's brother, Frantz, figures in the other triangle Augustin barges into, with Valentine, the sad girl who leaves Frantz at the altar.Francois is a watcher, a Wallflower...he participates in life as a supporting cast member. But without him, the story would fall apart. I love how, finally, he sees le grand Meaulnes as a sad visionary, never satisfied, always running after a wisp of a dream, leaving those who really love him behind. I just felt that shiver...

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...

Natalie

Oh, this book. Where do I even start? It's known to most English speakers as "The Lost Estate" or "The Wanderer", but actually translates to "The Great Meaulnes". From what I understand, you either love this novel or hate it. It is one of the few books I've given 5 stars to, but it deserves each one as I absolutely adore it. It is told by a young (and maturing) Francois Seurel about a childhood friend (Meaulnes) who turned out to have one of the biggest impacts on his life. First love, coming of age, mystery, enchantment, loss - it's an emotionally whimsical roller coaster (or it was for me) set in France before the first World War. It was a mix of somber and tragically beautiful, and reminded me a lot of earlier romanticism. Many will say that the translation of this book doesn't do it justice, but the translation by Robin Buss (The Lost Estate) managed to get the point across just fine with me! This book made me feel and think so many different things that it truly burrowed its way into my soul. Yes, it's one of those books. Give it a try.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Stevedutch

At the start of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca the narrator reminds us that ‘we can never go back again’ as, in her dream, she wanders the winding, overgrown path to Manderley. Likewise, George Webber, Thomas Wolfe’s ‘hero’ reluctantly concludes, that ‘you can’t go home again’ at the end of his novel of the same name. And this, in essence, is the theme that haunts this elegiac tale of childhood lost and with it the innocence that often, in adulthood, we wish was ours still to claim.The story of Augustin Meaulnes or, Le Grand Meaulnes, as he is entitled by its narrator, Francois Seurel, 15 years old at the story’s opening, begins when 17 year old Augustin becomes a pupil in the school run by Francois’ father. Its setting is the small village of Saint-Agathe in the Department of Cher about as close to the centre of France as you can get, in the years leading up to the Great War. The two boys quickly become friends and the older boy soon becomes the kind of hero-like figure that features, commonly, in the developing life of a post-pubescent teen-aged boy. Augustin has a charm and a certain otherwordliness absent in the other pupils with whom Francois is familiar and he is keen to enter into the adventures that friendship with Le Grand Meaulnes suggest might be forthcoming.Instead, taking off in the dead of night, Augustin embarks on his own escapade; one that will determine the direction in which his life, and those close to him, from then on, will travel. On his return he appears distracted and preoccupied and, eventually, relates his adventure to Francois.This is a wonderfully written, haunting, tale that will, in all likelihood, remain with the reader long after the last word is read, which accurately recalls all of the sweet pain of youth, during which dreams and life become one and the world seems replete with possibility.

Simon

A fantastic illustration of how poisonous nostalgia can re-shape your reality for the worse. The protagonist of "The Lost Estate" wants to relive a particular event from his adolescence so badly that his present is dedicated to manipulating reality in order to meet his romantic vision of the past. While this sounds heavy, the writing is deceptively light and simple, and hits the right note for a perfect coming-of-age adventure tale. The melodramatic elements of the book mask, or maybe support, the message looming in the background of all the action: even when you can go back, you can't really go back. Beyond the plot mechanics, there's much to be gleaned for anyone prone to romantic exaltation of the good old days. The almost soap opera-like story and twists drew me in, but the evocative writing and bittersweet bummer atmospherics are what made the book great. Recommended for 30-something sadsacks with a penchant for wistful introspection.

Lisa

Is this an ironic title? Not sure what was so magnificent about Augustin Meaulnes. Let's see some of the magnificent thing this guy did shall we. Takes off from school which his mother is bordering him to go to, gets lost with a borrowed horse and buggy, crashes a party for three days, falls "in love" with a girl he met for like 30 seconds, then loses touch with her and pines for her for years, then he falls in love with the girl's brother's ex-fiancee but wait a minute he finds the first girl again marries her after being reunited for another 30 seconds but wait he had obligations to the second girl so he abandons his wife after one day to find said other girl to reunite her with her fiance. Oh right the wife is also pregnant. So that's the title character. His friend is Francois who actually is quite magnificent. The narrator of the story also is very supportive of his friend and also supports the abandoned wife and then the orphaned baby. To say the least I didn't love this book but it's not terrible either.

David Rain

Alain-Fournier was the pseudonym of a French writer, real name Henri Alban, who died in the First World War at the age of twenty-seven. The narrator of this, his only novel, is a young boy, the son of a schoolmaster in provincial France in the late nineteenth century. The story begins when a new pupil comes to the school, the extraordinary Augustin Meaulnes. Taller than the other boys, stronger, more daring, Meaulnes seems destined for adventure, and adventure soon comes when he absconds from school and discovers the mysterious “lost domain,” deep in the countryside. There, guests gather for a strange and enchanting party, and Meaulnes meets the beautiful Yvonne de Galais, who is to beguile him for the rest of the book. Thus begins one of the great romantic novels of adolescence and a brilliantly magical fable, filled with mystery and longing. A great many writers have citied this book as a favourite, notably John Fowles, in the preface to the 1977 revised reissue of his novel The Magus (1966), who claimed that he sought, in this justly celebrated novel about the mysterious goings-on on a Greek island, to create the same effect of enchantment achieved by Alain-Fournier. (Interestingly, Fowles says that he missed a trick: he should have made his main character a teenage boy, instead of a young schoolteacher). In English translations, Le Grand Meaulnes (the narrator’s bantering term of affection for his intrepid friend, as in “The Great Meaulnes” or “Meaulnes the Great”) now usually appears under the French title, but has been known in the past as The Wanderer or, more commonly, The Lost Domain.

M. Christine

Bought this for the Edward Gorey-illustrated cover. I should never read an introduction of a book, but I did read this one by Fredrika Blair (translation by Francoise Delisle), which bulked up my expectations. But I'm okay with it now, as I approached reading knowing the historical context of Alain-Fournier. English translation delights with ambient language of sparkling youth in playground fights, summer picnics, traveling shows, and of a journey to recapture a fleeting euphoria of love at first sight. What motivates the irrepressible character Meaulnes? To find an elusive, ethereal girl that he encounters in the midst of a magical party he crashes during one of his many stints as a scalawag adolescent (scalawag in the Tom Sawyer sense). Or is it the chase or quest or the churn of energy catapulting a boyhood into life. So glad I read The Goldfinch just before, as they inadvertently echo similar themes in polar opposite contexts. Lucky me.

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