Le Grand Meaulnes
Published in English
Le Grand Meaulnes is the only novel by French author Alain-Fournier. Fifteen-year-old François Seurel narrates the story of his relationship with seventeen-year-old Augustin Meaulnes as Meaulnes searches for his lost love. Impulsive, reckless and heroic, Meaulnes embodies the romantic ideal, the search for the unobtainable, and the mysterious world between childhood and adulthood.
The title, pronounced: [lə ɡʁɑ̃ moln], is French for "The Great Meaulnes". The difficulties in translating the French grand (meaning big, tall, great, etc.) and le domaine perdu ("lost estate/domain/demesne") have led to a variety of English titles, including The Wanderer, The Lost Domain, Meaulnes: The Lost Domain, The Wanderer or The End of Youth, Le Grand Meaulnes: The Land of the Lost Contentment, The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) and Big Meaulnes (Le Grand Meaulnes).
François Seurel, the narrator of the book, is the son of M. Seurel, who is the director of the school in a small village in the Sologne, a region of lakes and sandy forests in the heartland of France. After arriving in class, Augustin Meaulnes, a bright young man who comes from a modest background, soon disappears. He returns from an escapade he had which was a nightly and magical costume party where he met the girl of his dreams, Yvonne de Galais. She lives with her widowed father and her brother Frantz in a vast and ancient family chateau which has seen better days. The garden party was held to welcome Frantz and the girl he was to marry. The fiancée, however, fails to appear, and Frantz attempts suicide.
After having returned to the school, Meaulnes has only one idea: find the mysterious chateau again and the girl whom he has now fallen in love with. However his local searches fail while at the same time a bizarre young man shows up at the school. It is Frantz de Galais under a different name trying to escape the pain of having been rejected. Augustin Meaulnes finds out and leaves for Paris in order to find Yvonne de Galais but fails. He writes to his friend Francois Seurel: "It is better to forget everything".
François Seurel, who has now become a school teacher like his father, finally manages to find Yvonne de Galais and reunites her with Meaulnes. Yvonne still lives with her aging father in what is left of old family estates. It is called "Les Sablonnieres" and is not as far as the two young friends had first imagined in earlier years. Yvonne de Galais is still single and confesses to Augustin Meaulnes that he is and has always been the love of her life. Yvonne de Galais accepts, with her father's blessings, Augustin Meaulnes’ marriage proposal. However Meaulnes leaves her after a few days in order to find her lost brother Frantz (to whom he had promised help many years ago) and re-unite him with his fiancée. Yvonne de Galais, now married to Augustin Meaulnes, remains alone at the chateau. Yvonne gives birth to a little girl but dies two days later. Eventually François inherits the house Meaulnes and Yvonne lived in and raises the little girl there, while also waiting for the return of his friend Augustin Meaulnes. While looking through old papers Francois Seurel discovers a small handwritten diary by Meaulnes. During the years in Paris (before François brought Meaulnes and Yvonne back together), Meaulnes had met and romanced the girl who had abandoned Frantz at the party.
Years later, Meaulnes does return having brought Frantz and his fiancée back together and claims his daughter.
- by Françoise Delisle as The Wanderer in 1928.
- as The Lost Domain (1959) by Frank Davison.
- as Meaulnes: The Lost Domain (1966) by Sandra Morris.
- as The Wanderer or The End of Youth (1971) by Lowell Bair.
- into Esperanto as La Granda Meaulnes (1976) by Roger Bernard
- as Le Grand Meaulnes: The Land of the Lost Contentment (1979) by Katherine Vivian
- as Meaulnes it-Twil: Rumanz ta' Alain Fournier (2012) by Paul Zahra
- by Robin Buss as The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) (2007)
- by Jennifer Hashmi as Big Meaulnes (Le Grand Meaulnes) (2012) (for the English speaking student of French literary fiction)
Le Grand Meaulnes was featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme Book at Bedtime, recorded in 1980 and repeated in 1999. A two-part serialisation by Jennifer Howarth was broadcast as the Classic Serial in August 2005.
The book was made into a film of the same name by Jean-Gabriel Albicocco in 1967 (shown in the United States under the title The Wanderer). Another film adaptation (Le Grand Meaulnes) was released in November 2006, starring Jean-Baptiste Maunier, Clémence Poésy, and Nicolas Duvauchelle.
Le Grand Meaulnes is the 4th symphony composed by Michel Bosc.
"Meaulnes the Great" is also a sculpture realized by French artist, Jean-Louis Berthod, from Albens, Savoy. The bas-relief has been done in 2014 in lime tree (130 cm x 140 cm). It has been inspired by Alain-Fournier's book but it's also a tribute to the missing persons of the Great War.
- Robert Gibson (1986) Critical Guides to French Texts, Grant & Cutler Ltd., London