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This report is taken from PN Review 21, Volume 8 Number 1, September - October 1981.

The Strange Fête at Gunnersbury David Arkell
Strange as it may seem, one of the prototypes of Alain-Fournier's enchanted château in Le Grand Meaulnes may have been a Congregational Church in West London.

The young Frenchman (he was 18) had come to London in 1905 to improve his English. For two or three summer months he was to work in the Sanderson factory off Turnham Green, while staying with the company secretary, Mr J. J. Nightingale, at 5 Brandenburg (now Burlington) Road.

Britain had always been for him a land of adventure (of Defoe and of Stevenson) so that from the start his imagination soared: 'From Newhaven to London I revel in the green, fresh countryside: grassland, huge trees and fields, all so GREEN. . . . My little room is on the second floor of a villa lost in greenery. Vaguely downstairs I hear the lawn being watered; and vaguely I hear Missiz [sic] Nightingale who, like all English-women, spends her time at the piano. From time to time a train whistles on the way to Richmond. . . . The suburban streets resemble country roads which are lined with châteaux of Sologne touching one another. . . . The Englishman stops immediately when he smells the scent of lime-trees. Then, breathing long and voluptuously, he says OH, LOVELY! . . . But I can't get used to the women, it's partly the way they dress, which is too comfortably and too briefly and the colours too light. It took me a long ...


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