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The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Henri Alain-Fournier , Adam Gopnik , Robin Buss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 May 2007 Penguin Classics

The Lost Estate is Robin Buss's translation of Henri Alain-Fournier's poignant study of lost love, Le Grand Meaulnes. This Penguin Classics edition also contains an introduction by Adam Gopnik.

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 his love for the beautiful girl hidden within it, Yvonne de Galais - his life 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.

Robin Buss's translation of Le Grand Meaulnes sensitively and accurately renders Alain-Fournier's poetically charged, expressive and deceptively simple style. In his introduction, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik discusses the life of Alain-Fournier, who was killed in the First World War after writing this, his only novel.

Henri Alban-Fournier (1886-1914), better known by the pseudonym Alain-Fournier, was born in La Chapelle d'Angillon, the son of a country school-master. He was educated at Brest and Paris, where he met the original Yvonne, who left a lasting impression on his life and work. Le Grand Meaulnes was published in 1912. Alan-Fournier joined the army as a Lieutenant in August 1914, and was killed in action on the Meuse less than a month later. Les Miracles, a volume of poems and essays, appeared posthumously in 1924.

If you liked Le Grand Meaulnes, you might enjoy Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education, also available in Penguin Classics.

'I read it for the first time when I was seventeen and loved every page. I find its depiction of a golden time and place just as poignant now as I did then'

Nick Hornby

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441894
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.5 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"I read it for the first time when I was seventeen and loved every page. I find its depiction of a golden time and place just as poignant now as I did then." -Nick Hornby

About the Author

Alain Fournier was born in La Chapelle d'Angillon in 1886. Le Grand Meaulnes was published in 1912. Les Miracles appeared posthumously in 1924. Alan Fourneir was killed in action on the Lesuse in 1914.

Robin Buss is a writer and translator who works for the Independent on Sunday and as television critic for The Times Educational Supplement. He is part-author of the article 'French Literature' in Encyclopaedia Britannica and has published critical studies of works by Vigny and Cocteau, and three books on European cinema, The French Through Their Films (1988), Italian Films (1989) and French Film Noir (1994). He has also translated a number of volumes for Penguin Classics.

Adam Gopnik is a New Yorker staff writer and author of the recently published Paris To The Moon.

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He came to our place one Sunday in November 189-. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, memorable, evocative novel 11 May 2007
This novel is, as Adam Gopnik says in his introduction to this sparkling new translation, like a French 'Great Gatsby', 'Catcher in the Rye' or 'Brideshead Revisited'. Nearly a century after it was first written it is as powerful and memorable a novel as ever - capturing a sense of lost youth like few other novels you'll ever read. I loved it already but enjoyed it even more in this new translation. Meaulnes is a character you never forget.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Good Gatsby 26 Jun 2007
First published in 1913, Le Grand Meaulnes (which really is the more sensible title, despite the renaming for this excellent new translation) is narrated by Francois Seurel, who remains a secondary character in favour of his friend Augustin Meaulnes, whose arrival at his school "was the start of a new life." Everyone at school loves le grand Meaulnes, and we are left to believe that he is a young man of irresistible charm, though we don't see much direct evidence of this.

Certainly though the book is rich in sensory detail, which helps involve the reader in its seductive (and sometimes suffocating) world. Every sense and scene is smothered in detail: a disused room contains "drying lime leaves and ripening apples;" people stand "in the magical light" of fireworks, watching "two sprays of red and white stars bursting;" a wheelwright's workshop has "the bellows of the forge squeaking ... in this murky, clanging place;" to give examples just from the first few pages.

Meaulnes disappears from school one day with a pony and trap, unaccounted for until his return a few days later. He tells of his discovery of a mysterious estate where a wedding fete is about to take place. He is "dazzled" by the sights:

"He could hear doors opening and see two fifteen-year-old faces, pink with the cool of the evening and the heat of the chase, under their wide-brimmed bonnets with laces, all about to vanish in a sudden burst of light. For an instant, they twirled around, playfully; their full, lighted skirts lifted and filled with air. He glimpsed the lace of their long, quaint knickers and then, both together, after this pirouette, they leapt into the room and shut the door behind them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Le Grand Deception 31 July 2014
By Tarkus
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This won't be a popular opinion, but hey ho. Obviously, it is acclaimed as a classic novel. But does that make it a good read? Here's what Adam Gopnik writes in the Introduction to this edition:

" places, stilted and sentimental seeming; in other places unduly bitter and prematurely soured...even the most Francophile of English-speaking readers is likely to throw up their the sudden roller-coaster turns of the narration...the improbablity of the incidents and the extremity of the experiences...melodrama that might have struck even Balzac as far fetched...Meaulnes himself is never entirely credible as a character, an odd and empty vessel..."

To these faults, I would add the tiresome overuse of adverbs and adjectives, hitting the reader over the head with the literary eqivalent of a cast iron skillet in order to ram home the required mood. "This bit is gloomy, tired and sad *BASH!!!!*", "Now you have to be excited, joyful and happy!" *CLANGGGG!!* "In this bit, you're supposed to feel misery, darkness, despair" *SMASH!!!*. It's also flawed in structure - for example, from early on, the author has the first person narrator relate details of which he could have no knowledge. By the end of the novel, this has reached an absurd level, so that the book ends with the author stuck with the first person narrator but wanting to recount Meaulnes experiences - he comes up with a clumsy device of the narrator discovering a chest containing notes that Meaulnes supposedly wrote over a period of time, which the narrator then "reconstructs" to make a kind of diary. The result of this accumulation of awkwardness was that it became impossible for me to forget that this was anything other than an archaic and melodramatic work of fiction.

For Gopnik, and I assume, for most readers, it is the intensity and depth of the imagery that more than makes up for these faults. Disappointingly, that wasn't true for me.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loss and longing in adolescence..... 9 Sep 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Le Grand Meaulnes is a charming coming of age novel set in France in the 1890s and told through the eyes of fifteen year old Francois Seurel. Everyone is enthralled by a newcomer to his father's school - Augustin Meaulnes. But soon after joining the school Augustin disappears for three days and returns in a somewhat dreamy state telling of a visit to a strange semi-derelict estate in which a wedding was to be celebrated. He recounts his visit in great detail to Francois who in turn tells the reader - a somewhat clumsy device. His adventure seems to have a magical dimension although a rational explanation is given. Following his visit to the lost estate Augustin determines to find the young woman he met there.

Although only a short novel - much is packed into its 200 pages and a complex story covering several years is unfolded. The scenes of the school and of country life are beautifully written as are the main characters of Francois and Augustin. But Franzt de Galais was a much less satisfactory creation. This reads very much like a first novel - a bit too serious and sentimental in parts - but it is easy to understand how it has influenced and inspired so many other writers. Catcher in the Rye, The Magus and The Secret History have all been mentioned in this context but I came to Le Grand Meaulnes after reading the wonderful Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, mysterious - and a bit trippy!
A wonderful, atmospheric and mysterious French classic, the only real flowering of Alain-Fournier's tragic talent. Read more
Published 2 months ago by R Barlow
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful translation
Please do not read this dreadful translation - there is no poetry in it and the book loses all its enchantment, using words like 'kids' and 'good-smells lotion'. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Janie Hextall
4.0 out of 5 stars Richard
I read this all the way through at some speed, so it's clearly very readable. It's very atmospheric, and well-written (for which the translator must take some credit), but I... Read more
Published 7 months ago by R. G. Burrow
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, the answer
I enjoyed this book, and found the new translation excellent. I especially approve of the title. Both introduction and notes are worth attention. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Frequent Traveller
3.0 out of 5 stars Le 'Grand' Meaulnes
I'm not sure I agree with other reviews that emphasis the Romantic nature of this novel. If anything it can be read as a warning against excessive Romantic sensibility - Meaulnes'... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Pensato
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
I first read this book over 30 years ago in the original French when it was a set text for my French A level and it has remained one of my favourite books of all time (although I... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ruby T
3.0 out of 5 stars The lost estate
A bad start but eventually you really get into it . if you enjoy rude words rude stuff...... THIS IS NOT THE BOOK FOR YOU. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Miss A C Willis
5.0 out of 5 stars Growing up in France around the turn of the last Century
This slightly surreal tale of a young man growing up in the Cher district of France. His friendship with "le Grand Meaulnes" leads him and his friend to experience many... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Geoffrey Terence Flood
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Translation
I enjoyed this book but give it four stars because, at times, the narrator knows too much detail of Le Grand Meaulnes' journey and this is mildly annoying. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Bluebell
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Belle Epoch love story
Completely evocative of era it was written in . As with Dickens in David Copperfield, the authors personal experience and feelings are part of the fabric of the novel.
Published 11 months ago by emperor
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