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Comment: This item is in good condition. All pages and covers are readable. There are no stains or tears. Dust jacket is present if applicable. May contain small amounts of writing and/or highlighting. Spine and cover may show signs of wear. May not contain supplementary items. We ship within 1 business day. Big Hearted Books shares its profits with schools, churches and non-profit groups throughout New England. Thank you for your support!
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The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 18, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I read it for the first time when I was seventeen and loved every page. I find its depiction of a golden time and place just as poignant now as I did then."
-Nick Hornby

About the Author

Robin Buss is a writer and translator who works for theIndependent on Sunday and as television critic for The Times Educational Supplement. He studied at the University of Paris, where he took a degree and a doctorate in French literature. He is part-author of the article 'French Literature' in Encyclopaedia Britannica and has published critical studies of works by Vigny and Cocteau, and three books on European cinema, The French Through Their Films (1988), Italian Films (1989) and French Film Noir (1994). He has also translated a number of volumes for Penguin Classics.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441894
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Z. E. Lowell on December 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
John Fowles once wrote that this novel (Also known as Le Grand Meaulnes and The Wanderer) "belongs to, and is the finest example of, a category of fiction that has no name, but exists." You could, as some do, describe this as a novel about youth and growing up, yet I think this might be a bit misleading. It's also a touching love story, a tale of friendship, and a tragedy about the pursuit of lost dreams.

The story begins to unfold as Meaulnes, a popular newcomer at a small village boarding school, sets of on an impulsive errand which he hopes will secure his reputation among his peers. Like most journeys (both literary and real) which have life-changing results, Meaulnes has no idea what he is getting himself in for. Losing his way in the French countryside, Meaulnes by chance happens upon a lavishly surreal wedding party where he briefly mets a beautiful young woman with whom he falls madly in love. After the party suddenly and tragically breaks up, Meaulnes again loses his way, finding himself back at school with no idea how to get back to "the lost estate" and his love. Meaulnes' obsession with finding this young woman and the happiness he knew only briefly compose the heart of this novel. I won't give too much away, but Meaulnes' quest is complicated by friendship and honor, with heart-breaking results.

This is a very moving story, and one which certainly everyone can identify with. Reading this book is like experiencing a bittersweet, haunting dream of childhood innocence. How sad that this was the only novel Alain-Fournier ever wrote; he was killed in World War I. I have to thank Penguin Classics for reissuing this beautiful classic, which has remained largely unknown in the English speaking world for far too long.
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Format: Paperback
You can read Proust's "Swan's Way" or Tolstoy's "Childhood, Boyhood, Youth" to get a sense of the wonder of childhood, its illusions, dreams and longings. But if you want a bit of mystery, a bit of the dreamlike with your longing for childhood, this is the book.

I discovered this book by accident. I was in the French section of my university library, restlessly searching for something to read, something with life to it. I found an earlier Penguin translation by Frank Davidson. It was like discovering an unknown treasure buried amongst the known classics.

The first part of this book deals with the discovery of the "Estate", the second part takes on Meaulnes search for his dream girl. It is a small piece but haunting. There are passages you want to return to again and again. This is the book for anyone who wants to reclaim some memory of innocence and simplicity in their lives. It is a golden world, a time before World War I (Alain-Fournier, the author was sadly killed in action on the Meuse in 1914), right after the fin-de-siecle.

The book has a beautiful, albeit melancholic tone to it. I won't say more but that it reminds me of the feeling you get when you listen to Debussy piano pieces. If you want something less heavier than Proust and Joyce, something with depth but also wondrous, pick this beautiful work up. This is a rainy, Sunday afternoon read.
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Format: Paperback
For a certain generation of Americans, J. D Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" was the quintessential youthful "coming of age" novel. For the French, perhaps of a slightly earlier generation, this novel is. Other reviewers came by this book via John Fowles. I did via Simone de Beauvoir, specifically in the first volume of her autobiography, "Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter," where it is repeatedly referenced. Of one of her first boy friends she says that "the novel that Jacques loved above all others... Le Grand Meaulnes." Concerning another friend, Zaza, de Beauvoir says: "... she had read Le Grand Meaulnes three times over: she had never been moved so much by any other novel."

This is the only novel of Alain-Fournier, who was killed in action in September, 1914, so early in the war that it pre-dated the trench system, which is the enduring image of the First World War. His novel is set in the fin-de-siecle countryside, in a region fittingly called today "Centre", yes, the very heartland of France, near George Sand's "The Berry." The novel is told through the eyes of the youthful Francois Seurel. The person who is called "Le Grand Meaulnes" arrives at Francois's father's small schoolhouse to become a boarder. Meaulnes is slightly older, tall, and has had a couple experiences in the world, earning him the "Grand" moniker, and he serves as a "mentor" to others, particularly Francois. He is the "leader of the pack." A central scene involves a grand "fete," a party at a mysterious chateau. Much of the novel involves efforts by Meaulnes, and others, to find, and return to this idyllic setting, hence the theme of a sense of youthful innocence and loss. There are adults in the novel, but mainly they serve only as a backdrop for the youthful action.
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A century after its debut, Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier stands as a classic not only of early 20th century French literature but also of the universal theme of adolescence as a lightening rod for restlessness, passionate energy, Romantic vision, the search for meaning and love, and the invention of the self. Augustin Meaulnes embodies it all from the moment he arrives as a 17-year-old student at a provincial French boys' school in the 1890s. Francois, the younger classmate who narrates Augustin's story, describes a dashing, charismatic leader who likes to live large, hence the nickname "Le Grand." When Meaulnes carries a scheme so far that he becomes lost in the wintry countryside, he returns days later a markedly changed person haunted and exhausted by a peak experience he can barely explain. Eventually he reveals to Francois what happened as he wandered in the wilderness and the hidden estate he came upon. He is desperate to recapture what he found there but attempts to locate the place are unsuccessful, giving him and Francois, who takes up his friend's cause, an emotional mission like seeking the lost grail.

The narrative is fluid, vivid and nuanced, a testimony to the translator of this Penguin edition. I regret I did not study French and have not read this in its original language, but this version has a grounded, natural expressiveness that does not feel removed from another tongue. The novel captures provincial French culture and its values on the cusp of the 20th century, particularly illustrating the perspective of what defines childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Francois serves as an ideal foil to Augustin providing gentle shading around the large outline cut by his friend.
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