Sunday, April 25, 2010

Le Grand Meaulnes (1912)

Upon considering a tour of the "revised version" of The Magus by John Fowles, published circa 1978, I found Fowles himself in his introduction making reference to Le Grand Meaulnes as a significant source for his own novel of impossible mysteries and paradox. I had never heard of Le Grand Meaulnes. It turns out that author Alain-Fournier only had time to compose this one slender volume; he was subsequently called to serve with the French in World War I, where he perished shortly before his 28th birthday. The novel tells a strangely toned story of an adolescent student at a boarding school in the French countryside who, one night of a full moon, goes out for a ramble and comes across a small village in the throes of a strange and lovely masquerade festival. He enjoys various adventures, finds a girl for whom he falls hard, and in brief a good time is had by all. But the funny thing is that once he finds his way back to the boarding school he can't seem to find that village again. In time, he enlists his companion, the narrator of this novel, to help him find it. Both continue the effort but are singularly unsuccessful. The resolution is a bit anticlimactic—it's clearly a first novel—but it's a pleasant enough ramble itself getting there. And there's something hard to put one's finger on that is very weird and altogether unsettling about the whole thing.

In case it's not at the library.

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