Le Grand Meaulnes (Penguin Modern Classics)

ISBN: 0141182725
ISBN 13: 9780141182728
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

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.

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.

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.

Adam

An elegy to lost love, an evocation of the sad inevitability of time, in the form of a modern chivalric romance: a questing youth stumbles upon an engagement party that seems an enchanted otherworld, falls in love therein, tries forever to return, but is foiled by the slow, dread entanglements of the everyday world and his own failings—he finds the woman, but never again the enchanted moment. The tale is told with an almost minimalist delicacy. Magical and melancholy.Favorite quote: Weeks went by, then months. I am speaking of a far-away time—a vanished happiness. It fell to me to befriend, to console with whatever words I could find, one who had been the fairy, the princess, the mysterious love-dream of our adolescence—and it fell to me because my companion had fled. Of that period…what can I say? I’ve kept a single image of that time, and it is already fading: the image of a lovely face grown thin and of two eyes whose lids slowly droop as they glance at me, as if her gaze was unable to dwell on anything but an inner world.

John Mark King

** spoiler alert ** This book really caught me by surprise. At first, it seemed like a typical coming-of-age story about a young boy who befriends a new kid in town who is wild, adventurous and unpredictable to the extreme. Then, it became a sad treatise on the damage free spirits can inflict on those they love...I read into it that we are often so overcome by the pursuit of our happiness, that we are often let down when we actually catch her. Finally, the book revealed itself to me for what it truly was, a tender story of one young man's complete devotion to a friend and the tragedy of guilt, betrayal and lost love.

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.

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.

Realini

Le Grande Meaulnes, by Alain –FournierI loved this book, which will make me pay more attention to The Le Monde top of 100 best novels…up to know I placed emphasis on the Anglo-Saxon critics’ lists of The Guardian and TIME…Le Grande Meaulnes is “one of France’s most popular novels…much loved yet little read”F. Scott Fitzgerald borrowed its title for The Great Gatsby (some think even the characters).All the life of the author was influenced, moved round a single afternoon, when he met Yvonne, which is the name of the main female character in Le Grand Meaulnes.He talked with her, but then could not see her for years, even if had become obsessed, hired a private detective, and learned that Yvonne got married…“From the Special Christmas issue of The Economist:“In the novel, 17-year-old Augustin Meaulnes is sent to board at a country school. There he befriends François Seurel—the bookish son of the local schoolmaster and the novel’s narrator—and earns the admiration of his schoolmates, who bestow on him the title le grand. Months later Meaulnes stumbles upon a tumbledown chateau where a bizarre wedding party has assembled, its guests in lavish historical costume. There he encounters a beautiful young woman, but afterwards he finds it impossible to locate the strange estate, and the mysterious girl. Before his search comes to an end, a bungled suicide will leave one character disfigured; a brief affair in Paris will lead a young woman to the streets….”To finish on a lighter note, there is this passage with made me laugh:“” un chien de race melee, qui repondait au nom AGACANT de Becali (!!)…sans avoir d’aptitude pour autre sport”

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.

Rebecca

For anyone stalked by the memory of enchantment. A boy's mania 'n' failure to pocket that lost domain. "I've kept a single image of that time, and it is already fading: the image of a lovely face grown thin and of two eyes whose lids slowly droop as they glance at me, as if her gaze was unable to dwell on anything but an inner world."P.S. The new Penguin translation absolves the book of poetry. Avoid. Even the title The Lost Estate has connotations of property restoration programmes. *growls at invasion of mundanity*La Belle Dame Sans Merci...

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...

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.

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.

Bethan

Apparently this novel is big in France while it's not very well-known in the English-speaking world. The author died in World War I at the age of 27. Childish and flawed, it's nonetheless fascinating, mysterious, whimsical and magical. Set in the provinces of France, it is primarily the story of two young men who met at school and are friends. There is a light and plaintive touch to the writing and I think it is very special, for its obvious flaws in structure and characterisation; but some of that gives to its fairy-tale nature also.

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.

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