The Wanderer

ISBN: 0452007542
ISBN 13: 9780452007543
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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