The arrival of Augustin Meaulnes at a small provincial secondary school sets in train a series of events that will have a profound effect on his life, and that of his new friend Francois Seurel. It is Seurel who recalls the impact of le grand Meaulnes, disruptive and charismatic, on his schoolmates, and the encounter that is to haunt them both. Lost, and alone, Meaulnes stumbles upon an isolated house, mysterious revels, and a beautiful girl. When he returns to Seurel it is with the fixed determination to find the house again, and the girl with whom he has fallen in love. But the dreamlike days in the lost domain are evanescent, and Meaulnes is torn between his love and competing claims of loyalty and friendship. Alain-Fournier's lyrical novel captures the painful transition from adolescence to adulthood without sentimentality, and with heart-wrenching yearning. Romantic and fantastical, it is the story's ultimate truthfulness about human experience that has captivated readers for a hundred years. In her Introduction to this centenary edition, Hermione Lee considers the qualities that have established its reputation.
Alain-Fournier was the pseudonym of Henri Alban-Fournier, whose only novel, Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Domain) was published the year before he was killed in action in 1914, at the age of 27. Like the narrator of his novel, Alain-Fournier was the son of a schoolteacher, and a chance meeting with a girl on the banks of the Seine became the rite of passage that inspired his story. Hermione Lee is a writer, reviewer, and broadcaster. She has written acclaimed biographies of Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, and Edith Wharton and her many other works include critical writing on a wide range of literary figures. She was Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford before becoming President of Wolfson College. In April 2012 she co-presented, with Julian Barnes, two programmes on BBC Radio 4 about Alain-Fournier and his novel.