Is it fair that you died in World War I while I live, free to write this review and feeling like I'm having a bad morning because I didn't have all the usual ingredients for my breakfast shake? Your remains weren't identified until , true, but do you know that without yogurt, steel cut oatmeal, goji berries and banana congeal like pond scum when blended with almond milk? I guess in a way translated works of fiction are like that, lacking an ingredient.
Not really fair of me to judge you then, is it? And on top of that, I read somewhere that the Robin Buss translation I have isn't the best. I don't know. Maybe I've been prejudiced against anything French because there's been a creepy mime wandering around the farmers' market on Saturdays. With the summer heat, its face make-up starts to melt and peel and it scares my kid and me. Or maybe, having discovered Woody Allen before James Dean, it's because I'm sentimental for my own sort of coming-of-age story.
But the truth is, I found your novel sappy. Sappy to the nth degree. Some folks describe it as dream-like. Well, I'll meet them halfway and say that it is conducive to a dream-like state, in as much as I found myself wanting to fall asleep as I read it.
Germany probably invaded France so often to keep from nodding off. Can you blame them?
The Lost Domain
They had all those big philosophical treatises to write, but then kept getting distracted by the latest Twilight prequel. And they would've even read it in the original French because all you Continentals speak five languages! I tried to make excuses for you, thinking, "Look at it this way: it's a parable for post-colonial France.
They were just coming off that Napoleonic high and had to simultaneously deal with the onset of modernity. Goodbye, Alain-Fournier. Sorry your life was cut short by one of history's celebrated mistakes. Maybe this book will mean something to somebody else. It's going to have the opportunity, because I'm donating it to my library.
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Alain-Fournier’s Solidarity Masterpiece – Scottish Review of Books
Alain-Fournier's one and only novel due to his tragic death during the first world war evokes dreamlike memories of a bygone era, with an evocative and moving friendship all surrounding a long lost love. And it's during this time that Meaulnes apparently goes missing for a few days only to return with a fascinating story of how he got lost one night and ended up in a seemingly abandoned estate in the middle of nowhere in which sits a Chateau that appears to be hosting some sort of party.
Who knows what Fournier could have gone on to achieve, he had the potential to be a very special writer, and as a first written work of fiction it certainly is a lavish one and has at times the feel of a fairytale that children would get read at bedtime, the narrative is superb and the book on the whole is easy to read so for younger readers looking for a good place to start with classic French literature this would qualify as doesn't contain the complexities and deep character studies of some of the other renowned classic French writers.
Although there is a story to an extent, the main factors for me were the universal feelings that would arouse the senses, with a nostalgic youthful spirit and the true meaning of an adolescent friendship shining through. I was left partially with a sad yearning for it's three main characters but also for myself, as your left with a strong feeling for your own treasured memories and loves from years gone by. View 2 comments. Some time after leaving university I was in a club; and at one point in the, er, festivities I was tapped on the shoulder.
I turned around, and there was an attractive blonde girl. She spoke my name; I stared back at her blankly. I was about to embarrass myself further, and admit that I still could not place her, when it came to me. Ah, Nicole! Of course! She had been in the same halls of residence as I. We d Some time after leaving university I was in a club; and at one point in the, er, festivities I was tapped on the shoulder. As the night wore on we danced and we chatted and we kissed; and when the club closed we set out on a walk, with Nicole in the lead.
I know my home city well, but being drunk, with my attention elsewhere, I had no real idea how we came to be in the place where we ended up. As I remember it now, and as I remembered it the next day, it resembled some kind of stone arena, with high walls, and lights all around, some of them hanging from trees. Of course I doubt this was the case, but that is what I see when I cast back into the past to try and dredge up that night.
In any case, before Nicole and I parted, she asked for my telephone number. Of course, when I woke up the next day the number was entirely lost to me; it was as much an irretrievable part of the night as the kisses and the fantastic stone arena had been. However, over the following months, even though I frequented various clubs in the city, including the one in which we had met, and although I kept something of an eye out for her, I found no trace of Nicole, by which I mean that she never herself turned up, and nor did any of the people I had seen her with that night.
The longer this continued, the more interested I became in the situation, the more mental energy I devoted to it. Who is this girl, I thought to myself, whose life briefly merged with mine only to suddenly disappear? At the end of each night I would leave the club and go in search of the arena, hoping that being in the same state [i.
Then one day Augustin Meaulnes — who is, of course, the great or grand Meaulnes of the title — enters his life. The circumstances behind their first meeting are significant: it is a Sunday, a day traditionally of rest, the dullest of dull days, when one would not expect anything exciting to happen. However, when Francois returns from church he finds a woman gazing through the window of his house.
He then takes Francois outside and sets them off. This is, in effect, the symbolic and literal start of a more exciting existence for Francois. In order to be able to enjoy Le Grand Meaulnes one must accept its limitations. I also ought to mention that the plot is often derided as unbelievable and silly and too reliant upon coincidences, particularly in the second half.
Responding to these specific criticisms is difficult, because silly and unbelievable are subjective terms.
In terms of coincidences, yes, there are some, but I have never understood why this bothers readers as much as does. Life is full of coincidences, so it I not as though we have no experience of them ourselves. Besides, I would argue that, flawed or not, the plot is tremendously gripping and moving. Superficially, Le Grand Meaulnes is a kind of fast-paced mystery novel. When he does return, he fails to provide an explanation, seems distracted and aloof, and appears to be working on some sort of map.
Naturally, if one has not read the book before, all of this is intriguing. Where has Meaulnes been? What is the map for?
The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes)
What happened to him? Whatever the boy experienced clearly had a profound effect upon him and one is eager for an explanation. He infiltrates the party and subsequently meets a beautiful girl, Yvonne. Now, what is so brilliant about this idea is that, for a novel about adolescence and adolescents, it actually taps into so many popular, seemingly immortal and universal, aspects of adolescent fantasy, such as the idea of getting lost, the prospect of discovering some magical place hitherto unknown, the opportunity to pretend to be someone other than yourself and, in the process, meeting a beautiful girl [or boy, depending on your preference, of course] with whom you fall in love.
However, to give the impression that Le Grand Meaulnes is nothing more than a kind of teenage fantasy or fairy-tale, or even a pacey mystery, is to undersell it.
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It is important to remember that Francois, from some distance in years, in narrating the tale, is, with fondness and some sorrow, looking back to his own childhood. Indeed, he admits within the first couple of pages that his memories are somewhat confused or have, in a way, merged, so that what may have been numerous days or experiences seem like, have become, only one.
I think this is subtly profound writing, because it is exactly how memory works — memories do not come to you in a linear fashion, as a straightforward or precise narrative; days do not follow in sequence; and so what you remember is likely to be an amalgamation of various memories or days.
Moreover, one sometimes cannot help but place important people in places where they cannot have been, or one feels their presence hanging over certain incidents that they were not part of. Bearing this in mind, one could see the lost domain as not only a real, physical place, but as childhood itself. This is given further weight when one considers that the domain was characterised by a kind of gaiety or freedom, and was full of children who, on at least one of the days, were in sole charge.
Throughout the book both the older Francois and the young Meaulnes are trying to recapture something ephemeral, something that therefore cannot be recaptured. I am speaking of a far-away time - a vanished happiness. It fell to me to befriend, to console with whatever words I could find, one who had been the fairy, the princess, the mysterious love-dream of our adolescence.
It is telling, for me, that Meaulnes, once he and Yvonne are reunited, feels deflated or disappointed and actually leaves at the first opportunity. To return to Nicole and my introduction, like me it was not the woman that he wanted, but how she made him feel, what she was part of. It does not, except in the most vague or rudimentary fashion, align with my memory of it. View all 13 comments. I read this purely because it was recommended by Penelope Fitzgerald , in truth since she is dead this was not a personal recommendation but it was one of her books of the century as mentioned in Hermione Lee's Penelope Fitzgerald: a life.
The appeal to Fitzgerald seems clear. It is a strange little tale akin to a fable, it conjures up a dream like atmosphere, it takes the lives of adolescents with one foot in the adult world and one foot in childhood very seriously and captures their state of mind and a I read this purely because it was recommended by Penelope Fitzgerald , in truth since she is dead this was not a personal recommendation but it was one of her books of the century as mentioned in Hermione Lee's Penelope Fitzgerald: a life.
It is a strange little tale akin to a fable, it conjures up a dream like atmosphere, it takes the lives of adolescents with one foot in the adult world and one foot in childhood very seriously and captures their state of mind and allows it to command the story, perhaps she too might have noticed that it is at once shy of and explicit about adult sex and sexuality and characters who are running but whether towards it or away they could not say view spoiler [ it is clearly there but is not depicted in the book hide spoiler ].
In a final classic Fitzgerald touch it has an ambiguous ending which depending on your point of view can be read as more unhappy than happy - if you are really optimistic you might find the glass of happiness certainly half full. It reminded me of a countryside version of Wedekind's play Spring Awakening , or to express it differently it is roughly mid way between Peter Pan and Logan's Run.
It also dug out memories for me of Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts , and as I have read, the story is very similar to that of the slightly later The Great Gatsby just in that case the story is played out by people who are adults in years.
The story relies a lot on the grossly improbable, but sinking into the atmosphere of the story these I found acceptable and they did not make me laugh though some of the improbabilities are quite silly - one boy does not recognise another who he is sitting in the same classroom with simply because the other boy has a bandage round his forehead - and not like the invisible man - just a single strip of bandage.
Such a dasterdly mastery of disguise! Anyhow the tale is narrated by the son of a village school master and one day Le Grand Meaules - a big strapping adventurous boy joins the school. All the boys are in awe of him if not at least a little in love with him. Le Grand Meaules - or Augustin by first name is the opposite of the narrator Francois view spoiler [ please excuse the absent cedilla hide spoiler ] , tall, strong, and outgoing compared to the narrator with his gammy knee who barely is bold enough to leave his house as a boy.
Augustin casually takes a break from school one day and vanishes for three days that's the kind of boy he is when he comes back he relates a strange adventure that swallows up the emotional lives of both Augustin and Francois. The story seems to be constructed from mirrors, Augustin and Francois are mirror images of each other, and the relationship between Augustin and Yvonne is the mirror image of that between Franz and Valentine. The mirror image is maybe the central idea of the book as characters gaze with longing on something that they can no longer touch: their past, indeed as readers we know that each day carries them further from the moments of perfection that they could not entirely enter into at he time - like those knights of the Round table who caught sight of the Holy Grail and don't know what question they are supposed to ask.