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This report is taken from PN Review 72, Volume 16 Number 4, March - April 1990.

'Did Germans execute Le Grande Meaulnes?' David Arkell
This was the sensational headline that recently startled Frenchmen when it appeared in a leading Paris newspaper. Up till now it was taken for granted that Alain-Fournier had died a hero's death, stark and simple, in the wood of Saint-Rémy, between Metz and Verdun, where a great wooden cross stands in his memory on a plinth of black marble lettered in gold. But that legendary death of 22 September 1914 is now shrouded by doubts and complications following an article by François Luizet in the literary supplement (25 September 1989) of Le Figaro. The astonishing claim is that Fournier and eleven other men may have been shot by the Germans in reprisal for a war crime.

It is still only a hypothesis, fiercely contested by men like Alain Rivière, Fournier's distinguished nephew and literary executor. If the unthinkable happened and the creator of Le Grand Meaulnes were branded a war criminal, it would be shattering news for a great many Frenchmen. He is held in enormous esteem, not only as a hero but as a Catholic hero. In this he resembles his friend Charles Péguy, who died only a fortnight earlier in the Battle of the Marne. The veneration surrounding both men has religious as well as patriotic overtones, and these go deep.

One of the first reactions to the article was a solemn protest from a leading member of the French Academy (Etienne Wolff), followed by a similar but more detailed one from Michel Autrand, president ...


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