The story begins in the second person, the opening sentence insisting: "You are Paul Salvador", but already three paragraphs later the reader is disembodied, and Salvador strolls off on his own "Arriving particularly early that day, Salvador first walked around the large black and white building", etc.
It makes no sense and serves no purpose other than to irritate and it's a game he repeats: "And the next day, you are someone looking for Paul Salvador" another chapter starts There's a decent story buried in all this. Echenoz does some of the episodes very well, particularly Gloire's encounters with the various men she meets. But he twists the tale too forcefully, playing narrative games without much payoff and making for an ultimately disappointing read.
The book is also apparently meant to be funny, satirising pop culture, the idea of the blonde woman, the detective novel. Bits are funny, but clumps of it aren't, and the book doesn't work very well as satire. Translation may also be a problem throughout the book -- beginning with the title: the book is called Big Blondes , but in the text itself the expression the nicely rhyming "grandes blondes" of the French title is translated as "tall blondes". Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs. Contents: Main. Big Blondes - US.
Big Blondes - UK. Big Blondes - Canada. Les Grandes blondes - Canada. Big Blondes - India. Les Grandes blondes - France. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Le Grand Meaulnes. Shelves: donated , fiction , novel , night-of-the-living-unread. Dear Henri Alain-Fournier, Some people claim you had great talent as a novelist. Many more would claim I don't. Is it fair that you died in World War I while I live, free to write this review and feeling like I'm having a bad morning because I didn't have all the usual ingredients for my breakfast shake?
Your remains weren't identified until , true, but do you know that without yogurt, steel cut oatmeal, goji berries and banana congeal like pond scum when blended with almond milk? I guess in a way translated works of fiction are like that, lacking an ingredient. Not really fair of me to judge you then, is it? And on top of that, I read somewhere that the Robin Buss translation I have isn't the best.
I don't know. Maybe I've been prejudiced against anything French because there's been a creepy mime wandering around the farmers' market on Saturdays. With the summer heat, its face make-up starts to melt and peel and it scares my kid and me. Or maybe, having discovered Woody Allen before James Dean, it's because I'm sentimental for my own sort of coming-of-age story. But the truth is, I found your novel sappy. Sappy to the nth degree.
Some folks describe it as dream-like. Well, I'll meet them halfway and say that it is conducive to a dream-like state, in as much as I found myself wanting to fall asleep as I read it. Germany probably invaded France so often to keep from nodding off. Can you blame them? They had all those big philosophical treatises to write, but then kept getting distracted by the latest Twilight prequel.
And they would've even read it in the original French because all you Continentals speak five languages! I tried to make excuses for you, thinking, "Look at it this way: it's a parable for post-colonial France. They were just coming off that Napoleonic high and had to simultaneously deal with the onset of modernity.
Goodbye, Alain-Fournier. Sorry your life was cut short by one of history's celebrated mistakes. Maybe this book will mean something to somebody else. It's going to have the opportunity, because I'm donating it to my library. View all 17 comments. Alain-Fournier's one and only novel due to his tragic death during the first world war evokes dreamlike memories of a bygone era, with an evocative and moving friendship all surrounding a long lost love.
And it's during this time that Meaulnes apparently goes missing for a few days only to return with a fascinating story of how he got lost one night and ended up in a seemingly abandoned estate in the middle of nowhere in which sits a Chateau that appears to be hosting some sort of party. Who knows what Fournier could have gone on to achieve, he had the potential to be a very special writer, and as a first written work of fiction it certainly is a lavish one and has at times the feel of a fairytale that children would get read at bedtime, the narrative is superb and the book on the whole is easy to read so for younger readers looking for a good place to start with classic French literature this would qualify as doesn't contain the complexities and deep character studies of some of the other renowned classic French writers.
Although there is a story to an extent, the main factors for me were the universal feelings that would arouse the senses, with a nostalgic youthful spirit and the true meaning of an adolescent friendship shining through. I was left partially with a sad yearning for it's three main characters but also for myself, as your left with a strong feeling for your own treasured memories and loves from years gone by. View 2 comments. Some time after leaving university I was in a club; and at one point in the, er, festivities I was tapped on the shoulder. I turned around, and there was an attractive blonde girl.
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She spoke my name; I stared back at her blankly. I was about to embarrass myself further, and admit that I still could not place her, when it came to me. Ah, Nicole!
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Of course! She had been in the same halls of residence as I. We Some time after leaving university I was in a club; and at one point in the, er, festivities I was tapped on the shoulder. As the night wore on we danced and we chatted and we kissed; and when the club closed we set out on a walk, with Nicole in the lead. I know my home city well, but being drunk, with my attention elsewhere, I had no real idea how we came to be in the place where we ended up.
As I remember it now, and as I remembered it the next day, it resembled some kind of stone arena, with high walls, and lights all around, some of them hanging from trees. Of course I doubt this was the case, but that is what I see when I cast back into the past to try and dredge up that night. In any case, before Nicole and I parted, she asked for my telephone number. Of course, when I woke up the next day the number was entirely lost to me; it was as much an irretrievable part of the night as the kisses and the fantastic stone arena had been.
However, over the following months, even though I frequented various clubs in the city, including the one in which we had met, and although I kept something of an eye out for her, I found no trace of Nicole, by which I mean that she never herself turned up, and nor did any of the people I had seen her with that night. The longer this continued, the more interested I became in the situation, the more mental energy I devoted to it.
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Who is this girl, I thought to myself, whose life briefly merged with mine only to suddenly disappear? At the end of each night I would leave the club and go in search of the arena, hoping that being in the same state [i.
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Then one day Augustin Meaulnes — who is, of course, the great or grand Meaulnes of the title — enters his life. The circumstances behind their first meeting are significant: it is a Sunday, a day traditionally of rest, the dullest of dull days, when one would not expect anything exciting to happen. However, when Francois returns from church he finds a woman gazing through the window of his house.
He then takes Francois outside and sets them off. This is, in effect, the symbolic and literal start of a more exciting existence for Francois. In order to be able to enjoy Le Grand Meaulnes one must accept its limitations. I also ought to mention that the plot is often derided as unbelievable and silly and too reliant upon coincidences, particularly in the second half. Responding to these specific criticisms is difficult, because silly and unbelievable are subjective terms.
In terms of coincidences, yes, there are some, but I have never understood why this bothers readers as much as does. Life is full of coincidences, so it I not as though we have no experience of them ourselves. Besides, I would argue that, flawed or not, the plot is tremendously gripping and moving. Superficially, Le Grand Meaulnes is a kind of fast-paced mystery novel. When he does return, he fails to provide an explanation, seems distracted and aloof, and appears to be working on some sort of map. Naturally, if one has not read the book before, all of this is intriguing.
Where has Meaulnes been? What is the map for? What happened to him? Whatever the boy experienced clearly had a profound effect upon him and one is eager for an explanation. He infiltrates the party and subsequently meets a beautiful girl, Yvonne. Now, what is so brilliant about this idea is that, for a novel about adolescence and adolescents, it actually taps into so many popular, seemingly immortal and universal, aspects of adolescent fantasy, such as the idea of getting lost, the prospect of discovering some magical place hitherto unknown, the opportunity to pretend to be someone other than yourself and, in the process, meeting a beautiful girl [or boy, depending on your preference, of course] with whom you fall in love.
However, to give the impression that Le Grand Meaulnes is nothing more than a kind of teenage fantasy or fairy-tale, or even a pacey mystery, is to undersell it. It is important to remember that Francois, from some distance in years, in narrating the tale, is, with fondness and some sorrow, looking back to his own childhood. Indeed, he admits within the first couple of pages that his memories are somewhat confused or have, in a way, merged, so that what may have been numerous days or experiences seem like, have become, only one.