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

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.

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.

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.

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...

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.

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”

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.

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.

Mark

"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.

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...

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.

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.

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...

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