PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Next Issue Alberto Manguel Selbstgefühl New poems by Fleur Adcock, Claudine Toutoungi and Tuesday Shannon James Campbell A Walk through the Times Literary Supplement
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

Alain-Fournier and English Literature W.J. Strachan

Henri Fournier, who adopted the pseudonym 'Alain-Fournier' in 1908 (to distinguish himself from a famous cyclist), had an enthusiasm for Dickens's David Copperfield which was shared by his family and the most enlightened of his lycée teachers, Monsieur Mélinand. It was this enthusiasm that first led him to opt for the 'Dickens way' of relating the kind of novel he was already planning in 1905, when he was working as a clerk in London. As he explained in a letter to Jacques Rivière (13 August 1905), there were many advantages in having a boy-narrator, and the technique fitted in with his preoccupation with adolescent love, interspersed with mysterious adventures. It was from Dickens that he learned to enter into a boy's mind, a boy's world, and how to vary the pace of his novel. Thus in Le Grand Meaulnes the dream world of the 'Domain' - an idyllic interlude in the narrative - was to have been succeeded by a series of events in rapid succession: 'Pirates', 'The Ambush', 'Police', ran the chapter headings of Part II.

If he had proceeded along these lines, Le Grand Meaulnes would have been no more than a rattling adventure tale in the mould, say, of Treasure Island. What gives the novel its added dimension is the quest for 'le bonheur', which cannot simply be equated with the English word 'happiness'. The study of this element in the novel will involve us with two works by Thomas Hardy, which Alain-Fournier knew ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image