Henri-Alban Fournier, who later wrote under the pseudonym Alain-Fournier, was born on October 3, 1886 at La Chapelle d'Angillon where his parents were teachers. He spent his chilhood in the Sologne countryside.
In 1891 his father became a teacher at Epineuil le Fleurel and young Henri was his pupil until the 5th grade. He then went away to boarding school at the Lycée Voltaire in Paris.
In 1901 he decided that he wanted to join the navy and he enrolled at the high school in Brest to prepare for the Naval School examination. One year later he changed his mind and instead prepared for his degree in Bourges.
In 1903 Alain-Fournier started his preparatory studies at Lakanal in Sceaux before his attempt at the entrance examination for the college of literature. It was here that he met his best friend Jacques Rivière. The two were to exchange important and passionate correspondence during the remainder of Fournier's life.
On August 24, 1909, Jacques Rivière married Isabelle, Alain-Fournier's sister and thus became his brother-in-law.
Alain-Fournier at 19.
On June 1, 1905 - Ascension Day - Alain-Fournier, a young student of 18 years, walked out of an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris and was suddenly faced with the girl of his dreams. He followed the young woman along the Cours La Reine, then on a boat and to her home at 12, Boulevard Saint Germain. He returned frequently to her home and his perseverance was later rewarded with a meeting.
On June 10, he saw her face in a window. The young woman seemed surprised but smiled at him.
The next day - Pentecost - early in the morning, he saw the young woman leaving her home with a prayer book in her hand. He followed her to the tram and whispered to her as she boarded 'You are beautiful'. She ignored him but he continued to follow her to the church. At the end of the mass the two had a 'long, beautiful, strange and mysterious conversation'. She asked him his name and then he asked for hers. She hestitated a second, but looking him straight in the eye and with great confidence she said with pride, 'My name? I am Miss Yvonne de Quiévrecourt'.
Unfortunately, she asked that he not try to see her again as she was engaged to be married.
This encounter changed Fournier's life and provided the basis for Le Grand Meaulnes.
In 1906, exactly one year after their first encounter, he returned to her street, hoping to see her again. He later wrote to his friend Jacques Rivière 'She did not come. Even if she had, she would not have been the same girl'. That year he failed his entrance examination.
The following year, not only did he fail his examination again, but he also learned that Yvonne de Quièvrecourt was married.
Between 1908 and 1909, he did his military service. Haunted by memories of Yvonne, he wrote a number of poems and essays which were published under the title The Miracles.
Yvonne de Quiévrecourt was born in 1885 in Paris. On June 1, 1905, Ascension Day, Alain Fournier, a young 18 years student was suddenly faced with the girl of his dreams.
In 1910, Alain-Fournier went to work as a journalist for the Paris Journal. During this time he fell in love with Jeanne Bruneau, a seamstress, who would later provide the basis for the character of Valentine in his book Le Grand Meaulnes (in English, variously known as The Wanderer and The Lost Domain).
From 1910 to 1912, while working as the personal assistant of the politician, Casimir Perrier, Alain-Fournier worked on his book.
In May, 1913, eight years after their first encounter at the Grand Palais, Yvonne's sister arranged for the two to meet. Yvonne was now the mother of two children. His persistent love for her convinced Alain-Fournier that it was impossible for the two to be merely friends. They parted, never to meet again. It was then that Alain-Fournier started a love affair with Simone, an actress.
Le Grand Meaulnes was first published in the July-October 1913 issue of the Nouvelle Revue Française and then as a book. Although nominated for the prestigious Goncourt Prize, Le Grand Meaulnes narrowly lost to Marc Elder's Le Peuple de la Mer.
In 1914 Alain-Fournier started work on a new book Colombe Blanchet, which remained unfinished as he had to join the army in August 1914. One month later he was killed. He was just shy of his 28th birthday.
His body remained unidentified until 1991, at which time he was laid to rest in the cemetery of Saint Remy la Colonne.
Thank you to Veronique, Suzan and Chris for their help
Photos : "collection particulière droits réservés"