Wednesday, 30 January 2013

'Le Grand Meaulnes' in Pictures

Ian Beck's frontispiece to 1986 OUP ed

John Minton, book cover, 1947
Frontispiece, Roger Chapelain-Midy, 1977

Pt1 ch2 After 4 O'clock, Hermine David, 1930

Pt 1 ch4 The Flight, Nelly Degouy, 1943

Pt1 ch9, Wellington's Room, Marianne Clouzot, 1949

Pt1 ch14 The Strange Fete cont., Claude Delaunay, 1952

Pt1 ch15 The Meeting, Laura Carlin, 2008

Pt1 ch17 The Strange Fete (conclusion), Michel Terrasse, 1949

Pt2 ch3 The Vagabond at School, Claude Delaunay, 1952

Pt2 ch4 Which Deals with the Mysterious Domain, John Minton

Pt2 ch6 A Dispute Behind the Scenes, Guy Bardone, 1989

Pt2 ch9 In Search of the Lost Trail, Ian Beck

Pt2 ch10 Wash Day, Michel Terrasse
Pt3 ch2 At Florentin's, Andre Dignimont, 1942

Pt3 ch9, Les Gens Heureux, Albert Uriet 1925

Pt3 ch11, Conversation in the Rain, Claude Delaunay

Pt3 ch16 The Secret, Hermine David

To celebrate the centenary of one of my absolute favourite books I ordered a copy of the 1986 OUP edition illustrated by the wonderful Ian Beck. I love it. Then I discovered that there are many many other illustrated editions out there, and put together the selection above. The pictures don't really tell the story, but you do get an idea of the different ways artists have approached the challenge.

Obviously this is a personal selection, made with a great deal of help from this French website. If you're interested in Alain-Fournier or illustrated books I urge you to visit the site.

Next year I suppose we have to commemorate the author's death, so soon after his novel was published. At least it did well. I've read the book umpteen times, but the curious thing is that I only ever remember up to the end of Part II. The last part always comes as a bit of a shock.

I don't know why people worry so much about translating the title. None of the Englishings work, although they're less bad than some of the German and Italian versions. The book is about Meaulnes, who is much more than a wanderer; he is 'Grand' because from the start he is a creature altogether bigger, stronger and nobler than anyone the narrator has ever known. He's like a knight from a grail quest, but born in a humdrum age.

Bonus picture: cover by Edward Gorey, 1953


  1. What a brilliant idea for a post. I'm hard-pressed to decide which of the various illustrators' versions I like best. Lovely, thank you.

  2. I am not sure why it says unknown at the top of this message it is in fact Ian Beck who writes....Delighted to be included in this company. I became obsessed with the book when I was 18 at art school in 1965. I travelled to Paris in 1967 to see the Albicocco film version which is very much of its time ie. vaseline on the lens treatment for the Fete etrange a terrible error. In 1986 I went to the Sologne area and found the original chateau, then a ruin, broke in and found film prop chinese lanterns lined up in the stables. I persuaded the OUP to allow me to illustrate their translation as a centenary edition. I have an edition bought in France in 1965 illustrated by Paul Durand I will scan if you like. I have an entry on my own blog on this very subject.

  3. Thanks Jane and Ian. Glad to hear you had a nose around the Chateau, Ian - these things have to be done! I've never seen a film of the book and I'm not sure I'd be able to watch it. I have my own vision of the story which, paradoxically, the illustrations don't interfere with... Being so powerful and so literal, I suppose, film tends to take over.