Based loosely on autobiographical details, The Lost Domain tells the story of a young man who wanders into a remote chateau and joins a feast for a bride who never comes. The chateau awakens deep longings in the young man, especially when he falls in love with a beautiful and melancholy girl.
But the next day, the young man cannot remember the way to the chateau. He does not know the name of the estate or the name of the girl. And so, he sets out to relocate the Lost Domain that promised so much happiness—a search that devours him and those who care most about him.
The Lost Domain (originally titled Le Grand Meaulnes), is the only novel Alain-Fournier wrote in his short career, before being killed in World War I. Despite its minor faults, this novel is a masterful story that contrasts the real world with a dream world that promises to satisfy every human longing. Writing about this book, David Bentley Hart praises its ability to
evoke a sense of something always just at one’s back, which one cannot turn around quite quickly enough to glimpse—the sense of a lost country at whose border one can only drift, or of a lost memory whose tremulous edge one cannot quite grasp.
Alain-Fournier shows us that the true purpose of imaginary worlds is to ennoble and enlighten us, to awaken in us love for the right things. It shows us that a visit to Faerie Land teaches us to live better in our own world.
But it also shows us what happens when one refuses to return home. We learn the dangers of refusing to grow up and face the hard truths of a fallen world—and the hardness of our fallen and selfish hearts.
Discussion: Have you read The Lost Domain? What did you think?