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Le Grand Meaulnes (1913)

by Alain-Fournier

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,855633,433 (3.77)1 / 169
When Meaulnes first arrives at the local school in Sologne, everyone is captivated by his good looks, daring and charisma. But when Meaulnes disappears for several days, and returns with tales of a strange party at a mysterious house and a beautiful girl hidden within it, he has been changed forever. In his restless search for his Lost Estate and the happiness he found there, Meaulnes, observed by his loyal friend Francois, may risk losing everything he ever had. Poised between youthful admiration and adult resignation, Alain-Fournier's compelling narrator carries the reader through this evocative and unbearably poignant portrayal of desperate friendship and vanished adolescence.… (more)
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» See also 169 mentions

English (44)  French (8)  Italian (5)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (63)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
This is a story about the unreality of first love, positioning it as the dying gasp of childhood meeting the first blush of adulthood. The sense of unreality that is attached to it, the intensity of its romanticism that makes it forever cling to memory, arises from a final tie to childhood's vision of the world as wonder. It is the last time we experience something new through the eyes of a child, the last sense of wonder once felt even in contemplating such minor things as butterflies balanced on leaves. First love is adorned with that aura, and there is a magic to it, but it is an aura that must be shed if true love between adults is to follow.

Meulnes is a victim of that first love, and clings to its aura. It is represented here as setting: the place where he meets Yvonne is almost a fairyland divorced from reality. By the novel's end this has been dispensed with, the gauze veil torn away. Romanticism has given way to realism, and this is the novel's poignancy.

The plot suffers. Multiple coincidences pile up about who knows who from where, and awkwardly kept secrets are overly convenient for producing the required misunderstandings and errors. The magic is in the portrayal, not in the storyline, although its veering away from predictability may surprise. This novel captured the heart of a generation of France, a dying echo from the past written by an author killed too soon in World War One, just at the time when Proust was introducing the future. That too suits its message. The past must be surrendered, and this rite of passage comes as much from within - from a shift in how we view the world and one another - as from without. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | Jul 24, 2020 |
It is time to reread this book. I first read it some 36-37 years ago. And I've thought of going back to it a couple of times since then. There is something still there trying to pull me back. The yearning, the ever lasting desire to return to earlier, simpler times of youth. Above all is the attraction of its storytelling; it is fashioned in the form of a quest--in this case the quest for a lost chateau. Once fulfilled it opens a door to yet another world of reminiscences and lost chances. This is a novel that is the product of Europe on the cusp of World War I. Like the novel, that pre-war world is lost forever, its perspectives, obsessions, and way of life as remote after the war as the Golden Age of ancient Greece.

While skipping around comments about Le Grand Meaulnes, I have just come across an essay by the Julian Barnes, written in 2012. What effect does Le Grand Meaulnes have on a person in their 60s who is rereading it through the prism of their younger self so many decades before? I'm about to find out. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
A Quoi bon; (whats the point) is what the woman said to Alain Fournier, when he finally plucked up the courage to speak to her, after following her around Paris for days as a very young man. She later added on another occasion "Nous sommes deux enfants, nous avons fait une folie." Alain Fournier never gave up on Yvonne de Quièvrecourt who unwittingly became the inspiration for his first novel which is a classic of French literature. This moment when the young author discovered the pangs of an unrequited love is translated into a novel that captures the wonder, the fantasy, the childlike innocence of adolescent love. The Grand Meaulnes took Fournier eight years to complete and it was first published in serial form in 1913.

Le Grand Meaulnes is actually the leading character in the novel: Augustine Meaulnes. He is 17 years old when he is enrolled in a school of mixed age groups in a small provincial town. He is bigger and older than the other boys and soon becomes the boy who everyone wants to know, including Francois who is the son of the head teacher and who tells the story. Meaulnes is disappointed when he is not selected to accompany the head teacher on a trip to the local station to pick up the grand parents. He finds another horse and carriage in town and embarks on a race to get to the station. He gets lost in the winter fog and eventually deep in the countryside sees a light through the trees. He stumbles across fields to find a tumble down chateau which is playing host to a wedding party. There are adults and children dressed in clothes from a previous century and Meaulnes is invited to join in. The bride never arrives but Meaulnes sees and falls in love with Yvonne the bridegrooms (Frantz) sister. Altogether he is away from school for three days and when he finally returns he seems a disturbed young man, obsessed with trying to locate the mysterious chateau in the woods. He eventually takes Francois into his confidence and together they plan to solve the mystery and find Yvonne. This completes the first of the three parts to the romance and the story continues with Meaulnes and Francois search for Yvonne with the added complication of Frantz still in love with the woman who jilted him.

Fournier based his novel very much on his own upbringing. His father was the head teacher at a small school and the sights and sounds of the life of the pupils in a small provincial town are atmospherically portrayed and then suddenly the reader is plunged headlong into Meaulnes adventure and we are in the land of mystery and fantasy and a bit like Meaulnes we do not want it to end. The wedding party seems full of young adults and children and there is magic in the air, there is also romance and there is innocence, but this must change when Meaulnes finally finds his way back to school. He is determined to chase his dreams but as he grows up and searches for love innocence is left behind and choices must be made. The final part of the book which tells the story of Meaulnes relationship with Yvonne is steeped in melancholia, the characters are searching for things lost or for what they never had and the melancholia turns to sadness and sorrow. I found it a deeply affecting book. Why this novel works so well is that even when Fournier is working through the machinations of his plot he still manages to turn the readers attention back to the magical scenes of the first part: for example there is a party thrown to bring Meaulnes, Yvonne and Frantz back together, it is held in a country estate beside the river and the woods and an atmosphere is created similar to the wedding party and Meaulnes even plunges into the woods, but this time he is angered by the actions of Yvonne and her family and the magic is dissipated: it is if his more childlike self was for a moment within reach.

The novel is by no means faultless, there are coincidences that serve to hold the plot together and people appear and disappear it seems at the whim of the author, but nothing can take away the sense of wonder that Fournier creates with his beautiful text, his character may be innocent even puerile, but they live and breathe in Fournier lovely book. A romance, but lodged in realism, an innocence that clings to the characters, a purity that negates the need for any talk about sex. That Fournier manages to pull this off and make it a pleasure for adults to read and read again is a triumph and so five stars. ( )
4 vote baswood | May 28, 2019 |
I was really enjoying the feel of this book until the last twenty-or-so pages, when Alain-Fournier gathered together the strands he'd carefully laid in the preceding 180 pages and wove a cloth of infinitely finer emotional texture. Despite the revelation of "The Secret" having a certain melodramatic inevitability about it, the intensity of feeling is breathtakingly honest.

The tone of adolescent gaucheness is entirely in keeping with both the characters and the author, and what could have been an early example of a YA potboiler is raised to the level of genuine literature. The first section of Meaulnes at the wedding fête had a surrealistic air, the middle section a kind of fevered languor, the final section melancholic tragedy, all of it overlaid with a shimmering golden light. Instantly a favourite! ( )
2 vote Michael.Rimmer | Jul 6, 2018 |
Three-quarters of the way through this book I thought it was more for children or at a pinch, YA fiction. But the last score pages had me racing to the finish in happy-joy-sad-nostalgia in that the novel captures the feeling of saudade, enveloping me as the third-party observer yet bringing me in close. I could not help several instances of déjà vu but I am not sure whether I have read parts of this before (as I had done with Steinbeck's Red Pony in an abridged version in primary school) or otherwise the imaginations of the older boys' recalls my own thoughts during those times when teenage boys are physically present but otherwise not there. I wonder, too, whether a feminist critique of the moral "rightness" of our hero's actions would not reveal a whole bunch of anti-morality should one shine a contemporary light on this, the third tale of the Belle Époque I have read in the last few weeks. I was fortunate enough to read most of this book while sitting on a cane chair on the grass in the warm autumn sunshine of the Southern Tablelands, creating a dreamy ambience that made the digesting of this novel all the more enchanting. ( )
1 vote madepercy | Nov 7, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
...Good bookshops, though, will have one copy. Usually it is just the one, thin and a little bit tired at the edges. Often the sellers won't need to replace it more than once or twice a decade - I bought a copy recently; the shop hadn't sold another in 13 years - but that's not the point: the kind of bookseller who stocks Le Grand Meaulnes doesn't really do so for good business. If you're going to run a bookshop, you had better love books, after all, and if you love books, then Le Grand Meaulnes is the kind of novel you'll want to have around.

If you talk to people about this book, you'll notice something interesting: not only have a lot of them read it, but they're still reading it. How and where they get hold of it is a mystery - possibly they are finding it on the shelves of better-read relatives (which is what I did myself). Some books succeed by word of mouth; Le Grand Meaulnes survives by even less than that, a barely audible system of Chinese whispers.But it remains a book that writers turn to; perhaps as much as any modern novel, it has a style which has echoed through the works of others. Despite the confusion of its titles and its dog-eared thinness and its faults, this is arguably one of the most influential novels of the 20th century.

Henri Alban Fournier was born in La Chapelle d'Anguillon in the Sologne in 1886; he was killed in battle on the Meuse, aged 27, in September 1914. The son of a schoolmaster, Fournier was sketching out both a play and a second novel at the outset of war, but his reputation rests almost exclusively on his only complete work of fiction, which narrowly missed winning the Prix Goncourt...
added by Cloud9 | editThe Guardian, Tobias Hill (Aug 16, 2003)
 

» Add other authors (106 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alain-Fournierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blair, FrederikaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carlin, LauraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davison, FrankTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Delisle, FrançoiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellis, HavelockIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gopnik, Adamsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leuwen, DanielForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mélaouah, YasminaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mes, HanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nord, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my sister Isabelle
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He appeared at our house on a Sunday in November 189-.

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Time passed. (Epilogue: Lowell Bair translation)
Le Grand Meaulnes belongs to, and is the finest example of, a category of fiction that has no name, but exists. (Afterword)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

When Meaulnes first arrives at the local school in Sologne, everyone is captivated by his good looks, daring and charisma. But when Meaulnes disappears for several days, and returns with tales of a strange party at a mysterious house and a beautiful girl hidden within it, he has been changed forever. In his restless search for his Lost Estate and the happiness he found there, Meaulnes, observed by his loyal friend Francois, may risk losing everything he ever had. Poised between youthful admiration and adult resignation, Alain-Fournier's compelling narrator carries the reader through this evocative and unbearably poignant portrayal of desperate friendship and vanished adolescence.

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Book description
Augustin Meaulnes, il romantico, avventuroso amico del figlio di un maestro di campagna, si sperde nei sentieri che solcano la Sologne e in un castello fantastico incontra la bionda Yvonne. Realtà e sogno si intrecciano in questo enigmatico romanzo di Fournier (1886-1914).
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141441895, 0141194820

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