The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 3 May 2007
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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.
aI 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.a
"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."
About the Author
Alain-Fournier, christened Henri Alban, was born in La Chapelle d'Angillon (Cher) in 1886, the son of a country school-master. He was educated at Brest and in Paris, where he met and fell in love with the original Yvonne, who influenced his whole life and work. The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) was published in 1912. Les Miracles appeared posthumously in 1924. Alain-Fournier's important correspondence with Jacques Rivière and his letters to his family were published in 1926 and 1930 respectively. Alain-Fournier was killed in action on the Meuse 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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Top Customer Reviews
In the distant past I minutely dissected this book, in French, during my last year in school. So slowly did the class proceed that we never got any further than the entrance of Le Grand Meaulnes. It was dinned in that not only was Meaulnes (close to unpronounceable for Ayrshire Scots) "tall", he was also considered "great" or "terrific" by his classmates, though we never had the opportunity to discover why.
The process we were involved in then was akin to turning over the individual stones on a gravel path, rather than standing back and looking at the garden. It killed any interest completely. Consequently, this book was a revelation, on several levels.
Not only did I find out how the story ended -- which was what I had really wanted to know -- I discovered atmosphere and charm our class had never seen. In addition, I found themes that have echoes in later works by other authors. The most significant of these, noted in the introduction, being of Alain-Fournier's teenage narrator in 'Catcher in the Rye' and other 'coming of age' books. And in the same way that the story owes a debt to ballads and fairy tales, it can be seen as a precursor of 'magic realism', in terms of the strange events at the Lost Estate.
But it isn't just of literary historical interest -- it's a good read, too. There's a debate over whether it's a children's book, a teenage book, or even for adults, but frankly, who cares? Just read it and see what you think.
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.Read more ›
I read this as an adolescent and was swept away by it's romanticism and feeling of another time. Coming to it in what I laughingly call my prime I am less swept away as swept into the corner. So much still resonated for me - but I was also more critical. It is true that Le Grand Meaulnes himself is absent for a good deal of his own feast and it is Francois Seurel, the 15 year-old narrator whose life is upset and enchanted by the slightly older Meaulnes. It is Meaulnes who rides away one day, returning a few days later with his story of wandering the countryside and coming upon a beautiful old chateau where hundreds are gathered to celebrate the return of Frantz de Galais, a young aristocrat who is bringing his fiancée to be married, and meeting there the love of his life, the beautiful Yvonne, sister of Frantz. Something has gone wrong with the marriage plans, however, and Frantz flees in the middle of the night, with his companion a man dressed as a Pierrot. There follows a series of shocks and village disturbances ending in a death and a birth.
Seurel himself is embroiled in the heart-break and this is as much his story as that of Meaulnes, who is part-spectre - a boy and a man acted upon who fades in and out of view by virtue of Seurel as narrator, and never makes himself entirely manifest. He is somehow always unknown, a mystery, his motives clouded.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I haven't read this translation of Le Grand Meaulnes as I bought it for my son to read. However, when I read the story in the 60s as a teenager myself I was entranced by it.Published 6 months ago by J. C. Turner
Someone wrote that you don't find this book, it finds you. One of my top 10 of books in my life. I truly beautiful book, achingly sad in places, mesmirisingly poetic and... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Shebe51
This affected me less than it did when I read it as a teenager but that's probably more of a reflection on me. Read morePublished 8 months ago by H D. Steel
The twists and connections of this book are enthralling to follow, as if the reader becomes Meaulnes themselves. Absolutely fantasticPublished 9 months ago by Anna Thew
Again, a compelling read translated well from the French original.Published 19 months ago by Barbara Tinn