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text 2015-06-17 17:48
The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) - Henri Alain-Fournier

In a boring afternoon of one of these days of June, I chose Le Grand Meaulnes immediately in the local library right after the librarian's alarm that they were closing. It was French and I thought I had a glance on a review before. By reading a few pages of it, I realized that it was a young adult story of two boys François and his best friend Meaulnes who lived in a lower-class school in a village. Narrating in a first person, I thought despite its title there was no trace of Meaulnes himself. I thought "No, I don't feel like reading this", I even wanted to interrupt. But because I did not have any other fiction unread in my bookshelves I continued reading. Well...is it a Tim Burton transcription? Mysterious abandoned house in the middle of a jungle… kids…girls dancing...a mysterious party. I kept reading and then again came back to the little preface and read it carefully to find out what kind of French classic it was:

This little mysterious masterpiece with its astounding simplicity and purity, and its deep sensitivity that is used for showing the feelings and emotions of a little mysterious world full of hope and sadness, has influenced strongly many works after itself.

It is going to be a love story? Although the blurb says anotherThe catcher in the rye but I thought maybe The great Gatsbytoo, unless it is not historical at all. In the middle of the book I thought that it was going to find its shape and kind of unputdownable because everything seemed to be finished and still half of the book remained. Well, he finds a mysterious house and a mysterious girl. Then all his life he searches for that house and girl. He becomes a wanderer. The magic and mysteriousness of that house and atmosphere unconsciously form his feelings. He searches maybe not to find the girl but to find that feeling again.

By finishing the book I had this feeling that it had that message of Gustave Flaubert in Sentimental Education. By depicting that this book declares the end of romanticism and its possible natural consequences, the protagonist, the great Meaulnes is the symbol of a transition.

It is said that a poll of French readers some years ago placed this book sixth of all 20th-century books, just behind Proust and Camus and also it has been twice filmed.

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text 2014-01-08 03:52
Best of 2013 and 1913, Part Four: 1913, the first installment
Virginia (Dodo Press) - Ellen Glasgow
Le Grand Meaulnes - Alain-Fournier,Frank Davison
Sons and Lovers - D.H. Lawrence
The Tale of Pigling Bland - Beatrix Potter
The Patchwork Girl of Oz - L. Frank Baum,John R. Neill
The Little Nugget - P.G. Wodehouse

Moscow firemen in 1913 (according to teh interwebz)

Ah, it's 1913. There'll never be another war. Although if you live in Mexico, Pancho Villa is leading a revolution. If you are Emily Davison, British suffragette, you make a slight miscalculation and are trampled to death by a race horse as you attempts to drop a banner on it. If you're a Norwegian woman, though, you may now vote. If you are the House of Lords, you reject an Irish Home Rule bill, and then on "Bloody Sunday" police injure 400 people in Dublin. If you live in New York, you get a new, uglier Grand Central Terminal and also the Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world! If you live in Dayton, Ohio, a flood destroys your home. You lucky American, you may also smoke your first packaged cigarette (a Camel.) If you are a balletomane in Paris, you riot when you see Diaghilev's Rite of Spring, set to Stravinsky. If you are tired of the Ottoman empire, you attend an Arab conference with other Arab nationalists. If you are Black in South Africa, you are officially outlawed from owning land. If you live in Copenhagen, you enjoy a beautiful new statue of The Little Mermaid. If you are a miner in Wales, you may be killed in an explosion; if you are an Indian miner in South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi leads you on a march. If you are Greece, you annex Crete, which had just barely shaken off Turkey. If you are Woodrow Wilson, you sign the Federal Reserve into existence. If you are Yuan Shikai, you are the first elected president of the Republic of China.


But what will you read to while away the hours?


Virginia by Ellen Glasgow

A forgotten masterpiece about a woman named Virginia from Virginia who has an "ordinary" life with marriage and children. The downfall of this marvelous book: racism. My long review here.

It's on the table, next to my cat.

Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier (also called The Wanderer)

I read this book in 1998 and I remember how beautiful and haunting it was and what a special experience it was to read it, but I remember almost nothing about the plot. There was a little boy. . . another boy. . . a school. . . a house. . . a party. . . . a girl. . . a journey. That might not even be right. It wasn't about the plot. I think it was about innocence.

I just inherited my mother's two copies, one in English and one in French. I remember we talked about it when I read it and she told me how much she loved this novel. You can tell she loved it, because she didn't read French but she had a French copy.

From L to R: my original copy, my mom's copy, my mom's copy in French.

Her bookplate.

Sons & Lovers by DH Lawrence

I read this in the mid-1990's, so once again I don't remember it well. It's about a sensitive, artistic boy who doesn't fit into his working class family (his father is a miner?) but he's very close to his mother. As I recall, there is some sex and it seemed very emotionally authentic.


The Tale of Pigling Bland by Beatrix Potter

I did read this as a child, but what I chiefly remember is that we had a record of Claire Bloom reading it out loud. She really gave a killer performance, bringing all the depth and meaning to the surface. The parts I remember best: "Beware of bacon, cream, and eggs. Always walk on your hind legs!" and the ending (sorry for spoiler) "Over the hills and far away, she danced with Pigling Bland." I think it's about a pig who goes on an errand, gets into trouble, meets another pig, and they escape.


The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum

One of three books the prolific Baum published in 1913. I remember this as one of the best of the Oz books. The Patchwork Girl is a stuffed doll brought to life for the convenience of humans, similar to the Scarecrow. My brother pointed out what a terrible conundrum it is that Ojo the Unlucky must break the most important rule of Oz (do not harm any living creatures) in order to save his uncle's life.


The Little Nugget by PG Wodehouse

Every book I have read by PG Wodehouse has been charming and diverting, and this was no exception. Until now I have mostly read Jeeves books so I was surprised at the differences in this one—specifically, that there was gunplay, a proper romance, and the main character was of near-average intelligence. There were two butlers though—but there’s something suspicious about one of them! My favorite character was Smooth Sam Fisher. The book design was lovely--the publisher was Overlook. Unfortunately there is one use of the “n word” which I think a good editor should take out in the next edition. Oh, I should say, the novel is about a kidnapping, or a series of attempted kidnappings. Agatha Christie said this was her favorite Wodehouse novel. But Wodehouse was very offended by this because he had written dozens more since then, so he thought that meant she hadn't read any of his later work. I bet she did, but she just liked this the best.



Up Next: More of the Best of 1913!

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review 2013-12-25 15:37
The Lost Domain
The Lost Domain: Le Grand Meaulnes Centenary Edition - Alain-Fournier,Frank Davison,Hermione Lee

I am so glad that this French classic has been re-released to give others like myself who had never heard of this very interesting novel a chance to read it. Extremely well done, a quality that is both dreamy and surrealistic. So many strange elements all set in or near a boy's school. A fete given by children, a house that cannot be found again, I never knew if I found the tone menacing or heartfelt, probably a mixture of both. A story of first love, the need to try to recapture and at the same time the need of some and their reluctance to grow-up.

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review 2013-12-11 00:00
The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes)
The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) - Alain-Fournier,Robin Buss,Adam Gopnik Introduction
A Note on the Translation

--The Lost Estate
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review 2012-10-17 00:00
Le Grand Meaulnes
Le Grand Meaulnes - Alain-Fournier,Frank Davison Book sale pick up. Lovely in parts, but the high French romance does grate...
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