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Le Grand Meaulnes (1913)

by Alain-Fournier

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,400793,742 (3.77)2 / 188
The arrival of Augustin Meaulnes at a small provincial secondary school sets in train a series of events that will have a profound effect on his life, and that of his new friend Franc ?ois Seurel. It is Seurel who recalls the impact of le grand Meaulnes, disruptive and charismatic, on his schoolmates, and the encounter that is to haunt them both. Lost, and alone, Meaulnes stumbles upon an isolated house, mysterious revels, and a beautiful girl. When hereturns to Seurel it is with the fixed determination to find the house again, and the girl with whom he has fallen in love. But the dreamlike days… (more)
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» See also 188 mentions

English (53)  French (9)  Italian (5)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Going to start splitting my reviews of French lit into two sections, first part for the book itself and second for my reading experience.

_____

Le Grand Meaulnes is the first and really the only major work of Alain-Fournier, a young French writer who died in the early days of WW1 thus cutting short a promising talent who showed a panache for combining and contrasting romanticist eloquence and realist portraiture of French life that put him in the lineage of greats like Balzac and Flaubert. It's not a particularly well known French classic in the Anglosphere but it still enjoys important place in the French canon and its influence is wider outside there than seems to often be acknowledged (that F. Scott Fitzgerald called his masterpiece on lost love and shattered illusions The Great Gatsby, a title with the same resonance as the French language title of this book, is no coincidence).

It seems to be something of a love-it-or-hate-it online with many people proclaiming their love for it and many saying they don't see the fuss - my rating and description so far probably gives away that I'm much closer to the first camp. You probably do have to have some affinity with the Meaulnes of the title in this intensely mysterious and evocative depiction of bygone youth, longing after the dreams, places and people of our distant and possibly imagined pasts. At the same time it's equally an early kind of coming-of-age novel, potentially attractive to those in their own adolescence as well as those looking back on it. My favourite sections were probably those of the Domain itself which is really where the novel kicks into full gear after a slow-ish start, though the third part picks up serious steam even if I'd argue it emotionally climaxes a little too early and the last few chapters feel like an after-note to how devastating that moment is. Some gorgeous writing in here that often inspired my own wistful feelings as well as leaving me in suspense enough that I devoured the last 10 chapters at breakneck speed and felt the full emotional impact of a certain vivid event even through the barrier of my still incomplete understanding of French.

__________

Speaking of which, my experience with the language itself - this was a huge step up in difficulty from Le Petit Prince as I expected and my Kindle dictionary got a regular workout for the first five or so chapters. The uses of the conditional and subjunctive still gave me occasional trouble though this might be the first time I really understood a few uses of the latter fully - otherwise once the basic vocabulary had been laid out I found my reading speed picking up throughout until I practically did extensive reading for the last 4-5 chapters and still felt like I didn't miss out on too much. My first time seeing a lot of words here, and this feels like my gateway into more formal, classical French - but it was a gentle one and the vocabulary remained fairly set after the first part which meant I felt like I'd learned a lot by the end. I'll vividly remember the experience and though my sometimes tricky understanding may have made an already dreamy and hazy novel even more so it's one I look forward to returning to one day when I'm more at ease. ( )
  franderochefort | Aug 5, 2023 |
... l'opera simbolica procede per irradiazioni e, diciamo cosi', per effusioni; in essa lo scrittore vuol rendere sensibile non una cosa ma la vibrazione che la cosa comunica all'anima. (copertina)

Ah, fratello mio, compagno di vagabondaggi, come eravamo convinti, tutti e due, che la felicita' era a portata di mano e che bastava mettersi in cammino per raggiungerla!... (124)

Uscendo dal bosco, sostammo a scrostarci sulla strada secca il fango delle scarpe, mentre il sole cominciava a picchiare sodo. Quel mattino di primavera, cosi' fresco e brillante, era svanito, eran cominciati i soliti rumori del pomeriggio, nelle masserie deserte nei pressi della strada, echeggiava, ogni tanto, il grido desolato di un gallo. (141) ( )
  NewLibrary78 | Jul 22, 2023 |
One of my favourite books ever. ( )
  jean-sol | Mar 2, 2023 |
Started strong, but went out with a whimper. Elegiac, romantic (decidedly not in the Harlequin / Mills & Boon way, but in the capital-R Romanticism way), Proustian (published the same year as Remembrance of Things Past) in its nostalgic descriptions of the memories, times, and landscapes of the narrator's youth. Fifteen-year-old François recalls a slightly older boy, Augustin Meaulnes (pronounced like "moan"), who disturbs the equilibrium of the local school and small community. Le grand Meaulnes, as the other boys dub him, borrows a horse and carriage, gets lost on the road, and finds himself in a strange, dreamy "domain" (a manor house) where a wedding is about to take place. There he sees an enchanting girl, and falls instantly and irretrievably in love, but she wanders off sighing "It's no use... we are just children." He fumbles his way back home again, but is not able to figure out where this out-of-the-way place is or how to get back, to find the girl again. He becomes gloomily, drearily obsessed with finding her, and François wants to help. But Augustin hies himself to Paris where the girl purportedly makes occasional visits, and pines. There is a muddle of classmates, townsfolk, and the thwarted groom of the wedding that never came off after all. Everyone is at cross-purposes; lovers are redirected, reunited, weep, desert one another, die, reappear... it's all very melodramatic and I won't offer any spoilers. The thing is, after all this drama, I kept expecting some kind of dark secret to finally emerge, something big and terrible - a murder, an illicit gay passion, something that would explode and explain the mess. But it never does. Even the death is not particularly tragic - more bathos than pathos.

Alain-Fournier has written this tale to wallow in (and maybe exorcise?) his own sad adolescent crush, and couches it in quite sweet and lovely memories of his schoolboy years in places he clearly loved deeply. The saddest part of this whole story is his own: killed within weeks of the outbreak of La Grande Guerre at Verdun at the age of twenty-eight. Very much a period piece, and very much subject to your own literary tastes. But kind of fun, if you like this sort of thing - I often do, but this one petered out and left a vague disappointment in its wake. ( )
1 vote JulieStielstra | Oct 25, 2022 |
A bit disappointing; waiting for something to happen. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (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 (104 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alain-Fournierprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blair, FrederikaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buss, RobinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carlin, LauraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davison, FrankTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Delisle, FrançoiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellis, HavelockIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gopnik, AdamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leuwen, DanielForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lustig, AlvinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mélaouah, YasminaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mes, HanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nord, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Widmer, WalterÜbersetzersecondary 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-.

(Davison translation)
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)

The arrival of Augustin Meaulnes at a small provincial secondary school sets in train a series of events that will have a profound effect on his life, and that of his new friend Franc ?ois Seurel. It is Seurel who recalls the impact of le grand Meaulnes, disruptive and charismatic, on his schoolmates, and the encounter that is to haunt them both. Lost, and alone, Meaulnes stumbles upon an isolated house, mysterious revels, and a beautiful girl. When hereturns to Seurel it is with the fixed determination to find the house again, and the girl with whom he has fallen in love. But the dreamlike days

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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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