Friday, February 8, 2013

"Le Grand Meaulnes" by Alain-Fournier (1913)

John Fowles described Le Grand Meaulnes as a novel that ‘has haunted the European mind since it first appeared in 1913. It is a novel one never quite forgets, a book like a secret garden...’

Le Grand Meaulnes is a story of the end of youth, with its sense of wonder and idealism, and the transition to adulthood and experience. In a story which exquisitely blends realism with a hint of fantasy, Augustin Meaulnes is haunted by the memory of a beautiful girl briefly encountered in a fantastic ‘domain’. However, Meaulnes finds himself unable to return there both physically and emotionally.

An acknowledged modern classic, Le Grand Meaulnes is offered here in a new translation which is more sympathetic to the poetic original than previous editions.

Ho-hum, it's been a while since my last (and first?) book review.

I bought the translated version a while ago on my Kindle but never really got around to reading it... until now.

Anyway, this is supposed to be one of the most popular classics in France, which was why I was surprised that I hadn't heard of it before... but I finally finished reading, and here's what I thought about it:

  • The beginning moved quite slowly, but I understood that it was essential for the background of the characters to develop.
  • The style is very whimsical and reminiscent of childhood wonders, which means - kudos to the author for evoking such a fitting style, but it doesn't guarantee an enthralled audience.
  • I never understood why it was the grand Meaulnes... especially by the time I got to the end. Felt more like the narrator was the "grand" one for being so caring of his friends, not the titular character, who I thought was kind of a dick.
  • Wonderful twist in the story; everything before that was just too fluffy and overloaded with the typical French romanticism, but when we discover the secret, the book redeems itself.
  • Very sad, and the ending is good... I still think Meaulnes is a dick though.
  • Despite how slow the beginning was and my intense dislike for Meaulnes, I really did like this book and felt very emotional when I reached the end.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars!

I'm sure that the language is much prettier in its native French, but even in English the universal message of love and friendship comes out well. Kudos!

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