Iconic Writer

Header Photo: The promo poster of the 1967 film adaptation of Alain Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes. A 2nd film adaptation of the book was released in France in 2006.
© EuropaCorp/Estate of Jean-Gabriel Albicocco.

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Alain Fournier ~ Biography (1886 - 1914)

To my mind, there are two really great young novelists (under 30) in the 20th century. They were French and between them produced three completed novels before their early deaths. One was Raymond Radiguet and the other was Alain Fournier.

He was dead by the time he was 28. A life maybe forgotten by all except his nearest and dearest if it wasn't for THAT book, his only completed novel, Le Grand Meaulnes (1913; translated as The Wanderer and also as The Lost Domain). I venture that anyone who has read the first half of that book will seldom have come across such extraordinary mystery and fantasy as can be found there, word after word, page after page. Prose that leaves you spellbound, bejewelled and bedazzled. If you haven't read it then I urge you to do so now. You will not be disappointed.

The second half of the book is not as good, like night is to day, but it's still not bad and anything that comes after that first half can only disappoint, it is that good. More on the book below.

Henri Alban Fournier (Alain-Fournier was his pen name) was born at la Chapelle d'Angillon, a town in Cher north of Bourges. He was the son of two schoolteachers and in early childhood went to live in a village south of Bourges, Epineuil-le-Fleuriel, across the Cher from Meaulnes. 'Meaulnes', of course, is the name he took for the main character in The Wanderer. Flatlands, marshes, collapsing chateaux were intregal parts of the countryside between the Cher and the Loire and were important components in his only novel. It's interesting to note at this point that The Wanderer was not only partly based on his own childhood experiences in this magical landscape but, as some have said, the life of John Keats.

He went to school at the Lycee Lakanal, just north of Paris and there met the future editor of the Nouvelle Revue francaise, Jacques Riviere, who was to become his brother-in-law. He also lived for a time in England. On his return to France he failed to pass his examinations for the Ecole normale superieure. Though he wrote poetry he felt his calling to be the novel - his destiny entwined with the novel and a girl he met on the street one day and talked to briefly. The girl married someone else but remained his ideal; his obsession of her was something he gave to the character of the visionary Augustin Meaulnes.

In The Wanderer, the schoolboy Meaulnes is the magical, striking figure who dazzles and impresses his friends, particularly Francois Seurel who narrates the story. He believes Meulnes's report of a fantastic adventure - one winter night when, lost, he had wandered into a mysterious manor where preparations were being made for a wedding which never occurred because the bride-to-be didn't appear. Meaulnes, who had fallen in love with the sister of the young aristocrat who had expected to be married, "lost" the manor. He and Seurel search for it through the countryside.

This concludes the first part of the book and, as said, is by far the best. For, despite the reader's urge that the lost place and people be rediscovered, he or she is bound to be disappointed when they are, and when reality sets in, with Meaulnes finding the vanished bride-to-be; he marries and then neglects Yvonne, the girl with whom he had fallen in love at the manor. At the end of the book, however, when Meaulnes, now a widower, has his little daughter brought to him, he seems to Seurel the same impressive figure that he was in the past.

Alain-Fournier, who rushed into service the moment the 1914 war broke out, was killed apparently as early as September 22. His body was never found, and Rivière and his friends hoped throughout the war that he was a prisoner in Germany, but he was never heard of again until 1991 when his body was identified, at which time he was interred in the cemetery of Saint-Remy-la-Calonne.. He left fragments of a novel, Colombe blanchet (1922), and some of his verses and stories were printed as Miracles (1924). When The Wanderer had come out in 1913, it made only a small impression on readers, but after the First World War it was recognized as an important novel. Jacques Rivière, who died in 1925, helped greatly toward making it better known; his important correspondence with Alain Fournier was published in four volumes between 1926 and 1928.

Source: Twentieth Century French Literature

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Alain Fournier: Biography >> Raymond Radiguet >> Jean Cocteau >> Andre Gide >> Links >> From Alain Fournier to you - Alain Fournier signed books and more @ ebay.com (direct link to signed items) - because his life was so brief there isn't alot but I have seen 1 or 2 >> Advertise here >> Alain-Fournier Books and Dvds available @ amazon.com

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