Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to The Wanderer, on which his fame principally rests, Alain-Fournier (ah-LAN FEWRN-yay) published stories, poems, and essays. His correspondence with Jacques Rivière (collected by Alain-Fournier’s sister, Isabelle, in a posthumous edition) is especially noteworthy; indeed, it is generally regarded as among the most valuable cultural documents to come out of France at the beginning of the twentieth century. As a painstaking record of the growth of a novel and the evolution of an aesthetic, these letters are comparable to the journals of André Gide; as a scrupulous exercise in psychological introspection and as meditations on and records of the contemporary arts in the Paris of the belle époque, they are of inestimable value. Similarly, Alain-Fournier’s letters to his family and to his friend René Bichet are distinguished by the same arresting qualities that inform The Wanderer: an ability to describe impressions suggestively and economically, a keen and nostalgic sense of what is irretrievable in human experience, and a lucid and discriminating appreciation of human character.

In addition to the letters are the stories, poems, and reviews edited by Jacques Rivière under the title Miracles (1924). Most of these works bear the earmarks of Alain-Fournier’s early infatuation with the French Symbolists, and they betray the hand of an apprentice. There are, however, an equal number of pieces in this collection—especially “Le Miracle des trois dames”—that prefigure the tempered artistry of The Wanderer. Finally, Alain-Fournier produced unfinished sketches for a play, “La Maison dans la forêt,” and a novel left incomplete at the time of his death.