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Henri-Alban Fournier
Alain-Fournier, full portrait, 1905.jpg
Fournier in 1905
BornHenri-Alban Fournier
(1886-10-03)3 October 1886
La Chapelle-d'Angillon, Berry, France
Died22 September 1914(1914-09-22) (aged 27)
near Vaux-lès-Palameix, Lorraine, France
Cause of death Killed in action
Pen nameAlain-Fournier
OccupationNovelist, critic, soldier
Notable works Le Grand Meaulnes
Military career
AllegianceFlag of France.svg  France
Service/branchFlag of France.svg  French Army
Years of service1914
Rank Lieutenant
Battles/wars First World War

Alain-Fournier (French: [a.lɛ̃.fuʁ.nje] ) was the pseudonym of Henri-Alban Fournier (3 October 1886 – 22 September 1914 [1] ), a French author and soldier. He was the author of a single novel, Le Grand Meaulnes (1913), which has been filmed twice and is considered a classic of French literature. The book is based partly on his childhood. [2]



Alain-Fournier was born in La Chapelle-d'Angillon, in the Cher département , in central France, the son of a school teacher. He studied at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, near Paris, where he prepared for the entrance examination to the École Normale Supérieure, but without success. He then studied at the merchant navy school in Brest. At the Lycée Lakanal, he met Jacques Rivière, and the two became close friends. In 1909, Rivière married Alain-Fournier's younger sister Isabelle.

He interrupted his studies in 1907, and from 1908 to 1909, he performed his military service. At this time, he published some essays, poems and stories, which were later collected and re-published by the name Miracles.

Throughout this period, he was contemplating what would become his celebrated novel, Le Grand Meaulnes. On the first of June 1905, Ascension Day, while he was taking a stroll along the banks of the Seine, he met and spoke with Yvonne Marie Elise Toussaint de Quiévrecourt. He became enamoured, but it was not reciprocated. The next year on the same day, he waited for her at the same place, but she did not appear. That night he told Rivière, "She did not come. And even if she had, she would not have been the same". [3] They did not meet again until eight years later, when she was married with two children. Yvonne de Quiévrecourt would become Yvonne de Galais in his novel.

Alain-Fournier returned to Paris in 1910, and became a literary critic, writing for the Paris-Journal . There he met André Gide and Paul Claudel. In 1912, he quit his job to become the personal assistant of the politician Casimir Perrier. [4] Le Grand Meaulnes was finished in early 1913, and was published first in the Nouvelle Revue Française (from July to October 1913) and then as a book, which was nominated for, but did not win, the Prix Goncourt. It is available in English in a widely admired 1959 translation by Frank Davison for Oxford University Press with the title The Lost Domain.

In 1914, Alain-Fournier started work on a second novel, Colombe Blanchet, but this remained unfinished when he joined the Army as a lieutenant that August. He died fighting near Vaux-lès-Palameix [1] (Meuse) one month later, on 22 September 1914. [4] His body remained unidentified until 1991, at which time he was buried in the cemetery of Saint-Remy-la-Calonne. According to some sources, the patrol which Alain-Fournier was part of received the order to "shoot at German soldiers encountered unexpectedly and who were stretcher-bearers"; the patrol obeyed, which the Germans would have considered a violation of international conventions. [5] According to Gerd Krumeich  [ de ], professor at the University of Düsseldorf, it is correct that Alain-Fournier's patrol attacked a German ambulance, but it is difficult to establish the precise facts. [6]

Most of the writing of Alain-Fournier was published posthumously: Miracles (a volume of poems and essays) in 1924, his correspondence with Jacques Rivière in 1926 and his letters to his family in 1930. His notes and sketches for Colombe Blanchet have also been published.

Albin Schram manuscripts

A correspondence between Alain-Fournier and an unidentified woman was found in the collection of Albin Schram. It is a grateful letter for her introduction to a Monsieur Hébrard and refers to his next work:

Il m'a proposé pour Le Temps ce qu'il était le plus logique de me proposer: lui apporter mon prochain roman—ce que j'ai promis bien volontiers. Ce second roman est, pour l'instant un peu retardé par une nouvelle oeuvre qui s'est mise au travers de ma route et qui ne me laisse pas beaucoup de répit. Mais j'espère bien avant la fin de l'année avoir terminé Colombe Blanchet.[ citation needed ]

He has proposed to me for Le Temps that which was the most logical thing to propose to me: to bring him my next novel—which I have promised quite willingly. This second novel is, for the moment, somewhat delayed by a new work which has placed itself across my path and which doesn't leave me much respite. But I hope well before the end of the year to have finished Colombe Blanchet.


In 1975, L'Association des Amis de Jacques Rivière et d'Alain-Fournier (AJRAF, Association of the Friends of Jacques Rivière and of Alain-Fournier) was founded by Alain Rivière, the son of Jacques Rivière and nephew of Alain-Fournier, to "promote knowledge of these two authors and to gather their friends together". [7] [8]


Inspiration for artists

Alain-Fournier has inspired the artist Jean-Louis Berthod, from Albens, who carved in 2014 a limewood board 130 by 140 centimetres (51 by 55 in) inspired by Le Grand Meaulnes.

Le Grand Meaulnes by Jean-Louis Berthod, French sculptor from Albens Le Grand Meaulnes de Jean-Louis Berthod.JPG
Le Grand Meaulnes by Jean-Louis Berthod, French sculptor from Albens

See also

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  1. 1 2 Mémoire des hommes Archived 15 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine Secrétariat Général pour l'Administration
  2. Norwich, John Julius (1990). Oxford Illustrated Encyclopedia Of The Arts. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 10. ISBN   978-0198691372.
  3. Daniel Leuwers short biography of Alain-Fournier in Le Grand Meaulnes, Le Livre de Poche, 1971, p. 242.
  4. 1 2 Tucker, Spencer C .; Roberts, Priscilla Mary (2005). Encyclopedia of World War I. Vol. 1. ABC-Clio. p. 57. ISBN   1-85109-420-2. OCLC   61247250.
  5. We read in the preface by Jean-Jacques Becker to the reissue of the tetralogy Ceux de 14 by Maurice Genevoix (Le grand livre du mois, 2000, p. XI) that "we now know" that the officer who commanded the patrol which included Alain-Fournier gave the order to "shoot German soldiers encountered unexpectedly and who were stretcher-bearers", hence the severity of the German reaction. de:Ludwig Harig found documents in the military archives containing details of the events of September 22, 1914. French soldiers had attacked a German ambulance and killed two seriously injured soldiers by blows to the head. Then the French soldiers were executed, the writer among them. (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 12, 2001: "Spuren einer Schlacht").
  6. Gerd Krumeich, "1914 Alain Fournier Disappears. The Archeology of German Sources", in: 14/18 Today 2 (1999), p. 85-93. This study, according to a note in a publication co-edited by G. Krumeich himself, examines how propaganda exploited the fact that Alain-Fournier's patrol had attacked a German ambulance. It also shows that because of this role of propaganda, it is difficult to establish the exact facts. See "Frankreich und Deutschland im Krieg (18.-20. Jahrhundert): Zur Kulturgeschichte der europäischen Erbfeindschaft", Darstellung nach Kommunikatorengruppen. Ein gemeinsames Forschungsprojekt der Historischen Seminare der TU Braunschweig und der HHU Düsseldorf, gefördert von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (2001-2004); Projektleitung: Ute Daniel, Gerd Krumeich, p.44, note 126.
  7. Le Grand Meaulnes – The Wanderer website
  8. "L'AJRAF". L'Association des Amis de Jacques Rivière et d'Alain-Fournier. Retrieved 17 June 2023.