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The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) Paperback – 31 May 2007
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“[A] favorite . . . a beautiful and mysterious story about the end of childhood.” ―Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Alain-Fournier was born Henri Alban Fournier, the son of two school teachers, on 3 October 1886 in La Chapelle d'Anguillonin France. He studied at a boarding school in Paris, at the naval college in Brest, and also at the lycee Lakanalin Sceaux, where he met his lifelong friend, the critic Jacque Rivi re. In 1905 Fournier had a chance meeting with Yvonne de Quievrecourt and fell instantly in love. This meeting was the inspiration for Le Grand Meaulnes, though the novel was not finished until Fournier had completed his military service in 1913. While working as a columnist and private tutor, Fournier was called up to fight in the First World War. He was killed in action at Vaux-l s-Palameix in 1914, though his body was not formally identified until 1991. Le Grand Meaulnes is his only finished novel.
Valerie Lester is the author of Phiz, The Man Who Drew Dickens (2004) and Fasten Your Seat Belts!History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin (1996).She has published essays and poems in various venues including The Atlantic Monthly, Airways Magazine, and The New Dictionary of National Biography.She first tried translating Le Grand Meaulnes as a teenager at school in Switzerland, and finished the job half a century later.
Henri Alain-Fournier was born in La Chapelle d'Angillon in
- Publisher : Penguin; 1st edition (31 May 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0141441895
- ISBN-13 : 978-0141441894
- Dimensions : 12.85 x 1.47 x 19.71 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 125,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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So here we have a story narrated to us by François Seurel, who when this starts is still an adolescent, and his father runs the local school. Then one day Augustin Meaulnes starts at the school, and soon after ingratiating himself with the others suddenly disappears for a few days. We know what he wanted to do, but as we see here, his plans went awry and he finds himself at an estate where a party and celebrations are going on for an engagement.
Thus, after returning to school Meaulnes wants to find out the name of where he has been and also to go back to once again see the lovely Yvonne. But Augustin is not the only person looking for a girl from that party, there is also Frantz, whose fiancée broke off their relationship.
This story has some wonderful descriptive writing that really puts you in the scenery of this tale, and then it wanders into a more fantastical setting, and back to then more normal life. This is a romance and there are really a few too many coincidences than normal for a tale published in 1913, but somehow it seems to work quite magically.
There is a certain element of growing up, but at the same time looking back with nostalgia and longing for the innocence of a younger age, and also over this hangs a certain ethereal element and for me a hint of darkness, but the latter may be because although it has been some years, I have read this before.
Admittedly this will not appeal to everyone, but it is at least worth having a go at, even if you only ever read this once. I think the main appeal here is that wanting to get back to a period when we all had less worries, did not have to worry about relationships, work and money, and as we will always have such yearnings at times so this book will still go on to be read by many.
According to Gopnik, "even the most Francophile of English-speaking readers are likely to throw up their hands at... the improbability of the incidents and the extremity of the experiences" in the novel. Gopnik gives as an example the lengthy incident in the middle of the book concerning a wandering gypsy, who turns out to be the heroine's brother, Frantz. Gopnik describes the incident as: "a bit of melodrama that might have struck even Balzac as far-fetched".
The Economist of Dec 22nd 2012 had a long article called "Le Grand Meaulnes - The girl at the Grand Palais", which also helps to understand both the novel and also its author. I particularly liked a comment on the article from someone called "Mormorola", who claimed that one of the reasons that Fournier's novel became so popular in France was that when it came out, other authors such as Zola, Gide and Proust were banned by the Church and Le Grand Meaulnes was one of the few pieces of good literature that was not banned, so teachers in high school became marketing agents for Fournier, lacking proper alternatives!
Many of the reviews here on Amazon are also informative, interesting and enjoyable. I particularly liked the one by @Frequent Traveller.
The importance of the translator's task should not be forgotten: Robin Buss has provided an excellent translation.
Finally, Alain-Fournier's novel is like high-quality, strong, heavy French wine: in moderation it is highly enjoyable, but if you overdo it, your head starts to spin and you have to lie down to sleep it off.