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

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.

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.

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...

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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...

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.

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.

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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