Le Grand Meaulnes

ISBN: 2013220677
ISBN 13: 9782013220675
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


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.


"Man, this book is so French." That's the recurring thought I had as I read The Lost Estate. It seems many critics over the years have responded to this book as a elegy on the loss (or, more specifically, the leaving behind) of childhood. This is entirely accurate, of course, but to me it seems even moreso a classic French meditation on sadness.This is not to say that French authors have a lock on depressing books, but aside from the works of Alexandre Dumas and Stendhal, most of the other French novels I'm familiar with (e.g., Les Misérables, Candide, Madame Bovary, The Immoralist, The Stranger, Nausea, The Mystery Guest) are filled with despair, ennui, or some combination of the two.Which is also not to say that I didn't enjoy The Lost Estate. On the contrary, it's beautifully written (or should I say translated, in this case by Robin Buss) and skilfully evokes that drained, empty feeling one gets when a certain thrilling childhood experience is revisited in adulthood, only to discover that the thrill is no longer present. But the sadness is there, in the book, almost from the beginning and, perhaps even more oddly, during Meaulnes's pivotal experience at the ethereal château de Galais. Perhaps it is because we hear Meaulnes's personal account of this lost estate (albeit through François's narration) only after he has already returned and is trying to find his way back to it that the story itself is suffused with sadness. But even as we read about the children playing in the lawns, the sumptuous feast, the lake outing, or Meaulnes's first glimpse of beautiful Yvonne at the piano, it's as if Meaulnes is despairing of his adventure even as he lives it. This cloud over the proceedings is what led me to my second recurring thought while I was reading this book: "Why do the French have to be so gloomy?" Again, I can't really support this thought with empirical evidence so much as a general feeling about French novels, film (from Contempt to Of Gods and Men), and philosophy (Foucault and Derrida). This gloom that so pervades the book led me to wonder why Meaulnes was so intent on returning to the estate and finding Yvonne. From what I could tell, his idealized vision of that place and the girl he found there seemed to crumble even before he was finished completing it. So then I thought to myself, Perhaps one must be French to truly appreciate Meaulnes's predicament. I have a Russian colleague who contends that someone who isn't Russian can't truly understand a book like Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita . You may understand the plot, the characters, even the novel's themes, but there's something fundamentally Russian about the book that cannot be deciphered by a non-Russian. Perhaps this isn't true (after all, human experience is subjective and, as a Russian, he can't possibly know what it's like for a non-Russian to try to decipher The Master and Margarita), but it raises an interesting point. One might say that the point of literature is for a writer to convey a certain experience to a reader who has never had that experience; but are there some experiences, or modes of feeling, that cannot cross certain boundaries, despite the skill of the writer who attempts to cross them? I don't know. But I do feel as if I failed to understand something very important lurking within The Lost Estate. And perhaps the reason why I failed to understand it is because I'm just not French.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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...

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.


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...


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”


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.

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