I LOVE FRANCE!
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Le Grand Meaulnes
218 pages [read as ebook, downloaded for free online]
Published in 1913
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
If I remember correctly, I read this book in 7th grade. I wrote an extensive essay on it: I was totally crazy back then with this book. It came back to mind some months ago, and I’m thrilled it is my first book read in 2012. I have to say I found the same enjoyment, about 35 years later!
I probably even more appreciated the style, especially on the countryside descriptions. The author, one of too many great artists who disappeared during WWI, does a fantastic job at recreating the ambiance of little villages, with their local school, with simple peasant life, and the world of friendship.
It is really a very romantic book, with the theme of love, lost love, the pursue of memories, of a beautiful face you saw one day and try to find again, and of mysterious magic places, where life seems to be coming from another world, a world free of sorrow, a world free of the looming shadows of pre-WWI.
His 2 main heroes are great characters.
Two movies have been on the book, in 1967 and 2001. I have not seen them, and will probably not, too afraid to break the charm!
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Le Grand Meaulnes is the only novel by French author Alain-Fournier. Fifteen-year-old François Seurel narrates the story of his relationship with seventeen-year-old Augustin Meaulnes as Meaulnes searches for his lost love. Impulsive, reckless and heroic, Meaulnes embodies the romantic ideal, the search for the unobtainable, and the mysterious world between childhood and adulthood. It is considered one of the great works of French literature.
François the narrator of the book is the son of M. Seurel who is the director of the school in a small village in the Sologne, a countryside of lakes and sandy forests. After arriving in class, Augustin Meaulnes, who has led a distressed life, soon disappears. He returns from an escapade he had which was an incredible and magical costume party where he met the girl of his dreams, Yvonne de Galais.
Various English translations are available. While there have been different translations of the title, such as The Lost Domain and The Wanderer, modern translations usually do not translate the title. [wikipedia]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alain-Fournier was the pseudonym of Henri Alban-Fournier (October 3, 1886 – September 22, 1914), a French author and soldier. He was the author of a single novel, Le Grand Meaulnes (1913), which has been twice filmed and is considered a classic of French literature.
Alain-Fournier was born in La Chapelle-d’Angillon, in the Cher département, in central France, the son of a school teacher. He studied at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, near Paris, where he prepared for the entrance examination to the École Normale Supérieure, but without success. He then studied at the merchant marine school in Brest. At the Lycée Lakanal he met Jacques Rivière, and the two became close friends. In 1909, Rivière married Alain-Fournier’s younger sister Isabelle.
He interrupted his studies in 1907 and from 1908 to 1909 he performed his military service. At this time he published some essays, poems and stories which were later collected and re-published under the name Miracles.
Throughout this period he was mulling over what would become his celebrated novel, Le Grand Meaulnes. On the first of June 1905, Ascension day, while he was talking a stroll along banks of the Seine he had met Yvonne de Quiévrecourt, with whom he became deeply enamoured. The two spoke, but he did not manage to win her favours. The following year on the same day he waited for her at the same place, but she did not appear. That night he told Rivière, “She did not come. And even if she had, she would not have been the same”. They did not meet again until eight years later, when she was married with two children. Yvonne de Quiévrecourt would become Yvonne de Galais in his novel.
He returned to Paris in 1910 and became a literary critic, writing for the Paris-Journal. There he met André Gide and Paul Claudel. In 1912, he quit his job to become the personal assistant of the politician Casimir Perrier. Le Grand Meaulnes was finished in early 1913, and was first published in the Nouvelle Revue Française (from July to October 1913), and then as a book. Le Grand Meaulnes was nominated for, but did not win, the Prix Goncourt. It is available in English in a widely-admired 1959 translation by Frank Davison for Oxford University Press.
In 1914, Alain-Fournier started work on a second novel, Colombe Blanchet, but this remained unfinished when he joined the army as a Lieutenant in August. He died fighting near Vaux-lès-Palameix (Meuse) one month later, on the 22nd of September 1914. His body remained unidentified until 1991, at which time he was interred in the cemetery of Saint-Remy-la-Calonne.
Most of the writing of Alain-Fournier was published posthumously: Miracles (a volume of poems and essays) in 1924, his correspondence with Jacques Rivière in 1926 and his letters to his family in 1930. His notes and sketches for Colombe Blanchet have also been published. [goodreads]
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AS THIS IS MY FIRST REVIEW OF THE YEAR, I WANTED TO INFORM YOU THAT YOU CAN NOW FOLLOW MY READING PROGRESS IN 2012 ON A CHART IN GOOGLE
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HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
DO YOU FEEL LIKE READING THIS BOOK?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN A COMMENT PLEASE
My favorite thing about people participating in the European Reading Challenge is that I get to learn about so many books that I have not known about before.
Thanks for including this as your “France” book in the challenge!
Rose City Reader
Thanks for your comment, yes reading challenges are a great place to trade titles, could be 1 reason of my reading challenge addiction!
I would not have had the slightest idea what to do with this book in the 7th grade. That is an impressive obsession.
I wrote a few pieces on the book last spring, where I emphasized the weirdness of the book and its kinship with Nerval and German novellas.
I really wish I had kept my essays on this book. I just read your 3 posts on it on your blog and I liked your idea of connection with Nerval and German literature. This is definitely for me the most romantic French book, but yes not the “regular” French romanticism, rather the one I would connect with Goethe, even Wagner and Louis II of Baviera.
It is sadly ironic though to remember that the author is one of so many great young French artists of the time who died during WWI.
Are you able to read it in the original? It is so good, I don’t even want to try it in English, I have the feeling most of its magic would disappear [says I, an English-French translator!!]
Yes, Alain-Fournier was a terrible loss.
I do not have enough French to read prose of any difficulty. The translation I read seemed good. I am generally very pro-translator.
As a translator, I also tend to give credit to translators, though I have run into terrible translations as well, and creating an evocative atmosphere, so essential in Le grand Meaulnes, is extremely tricky between languages.
The atmosphere is created by the details. Get the details right, and atmosphere follows. Make sure the little doll makes the right noises while it being fed its gruel.
I understand your point and love your illustrating example, though I have to admit that things are not that simple as far as translation is concerned: you may translate the exact same details from one language to another and end up generating a very different set of emotions, let’s say among English speaking and French speaking readers, not take the 2 languages I translate. On this whole fascinating issue of languages and translations, a great book was published a few months ago: Is That a Fish In Your Ear?: https://wordsandpeace.com/2012/01/10/is-that-a-fish-in-your-ear/
How nice that the book is still just as captivating as it was when you were in 7th Grade! It sounds lovely!
yes, its ambiance is quite magical
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This sounds great, Emma. As you know, I am always on the look for good French books. Will see that I can find it. Maybe on my next visit to my son in Brussels.
You can buy it here in French for $3.34. Free shipping anywhere in the world
Sounds good. I will just have to see what the tax situation is. For a while, I had to pay import tax plus a handling charge for everything I ordered from abroad. It’s a new thing that came up with Brexit.
OMG!! Wait, so you are currently living in England? I thought you were in Germany.
This publisher is in France. Oh I guess I forgot to give you the link: https://www.lireka.com/fr/pp/9782266296021-le-grand-meaulnes
They do free shipping anywhere in the world
Oh, France, that’s good. No, no, you are right, I am in Germany. But after Brexit, they started checking every single mail that came from non-EU countries. Before, they made spot checks and I might have to pay tax on the odd delivery. But now they check them all and ask for an administration charge of about 7 Euros plus the tax, so it’s no fun ordering anything from abroad and you have to be so careful when ordering that they don’t send it from another country.
That’s insane! Thanks for sharing, I had no idea
Neither did I until I received the first delivery from out of the EU.
this is so weird, I wonder what’s actually the logic behind this
We always had to pay import tax from other countries but with Britain leaving the EU, there were so many more than before, so they had to do more checking and now ask for a handling charge.
I had no idea. Good to know, thanks for the info
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Well, how should you know. The EU members are still safe. That’s what the EU is there for, as many Brexiters found out when it was too late.
Well, being French and a French teacher at that, and having still family in France, I should keep up with that type of news really.
Yes, total debacle with that Brexit.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Maybe the French don’t do the “administration charge”. And yes to your last sentence. But we knew that in advance.
I’m curious now, I’ll ask a member of my family who buys lots of books
It’s not just books, anything you order from out of the EU
Yes, I understand
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