Today marks the 104th anniversary of the death of the French novelist Alain-Fournier. Henri Alban-Fournier (Alain-Fournier was a pen name) was killed in action on September 22nd, 1914, the last day of summer, at the onset of a long dark winter for Western civilization. In another two weeks he would have been twenty-eight years old. One year before he had published his first and only novel, Le Grand Meaulnes, which was to become a classic of French literature. In 1999 readers of Le Monde voted it the ninth greatest novel of the twentieth century.
“They disembarked in front of a wood of fir trees. The passengers had to wait for a moment on the gangway, pressed closely one against the other, for one of the boatmen to unlock the gate … With what emotion would Meaulnes later recall that minute in which, on the banks of the pond, he had had so close to his own face the face of that now lost girl! It was a profile of such purity, and he had filled his eyes with it until they were about to well up with tears. And he remembered seeing, like a delicate secret she had entrusted to him, a little leftover powder on her cheek… ”