I Am Reminded of Henri


I am reminded of Henri.

He was a sweet and romantic man, but a child in his heart. He was always humble, and so he never said, but I think there were hundreds of stories in him. When he was sad, he was melancholy like the ocean at high tide, but when he was happy he was whimsical and wistful and nostalgic like a long summer’s day.

He fell in love with his wife as soon as he met her. It was at a party, he told me. He had spent his time gazing through glasses of wine at her, covered in crepe paper with a house that was sweet and drafty and sagged at the edges.

The light was a warm, milky yellow and though they did not talk for hours, they saw each other again and again under paper lanterns and the stars. He waited for her, a year to the day. But she did not come. Not for eight years. Yvonne de Quievrecourt became Yvonne de Galais in his novel.

They had only just married when he was called into military service. He went back to being a teacher in the provinces, but the drumming of war would not let him alone. He was drafted. He died a month later. His body was not formally identified till 1991.

To me, Le Grande Meaulnes is a sad book, made even sadder by his passing. He put so much of himself into the book, and yet so much of him was lost.

Even sadder still, is that he had unfinished books. That he had children. That he had loved. That he had hoped.


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