10 Mar 2008


Lieutenant Fournier 1913.

On the 22nd September 1914 a famous French writer, Alain-Fournier (1886–1914), was killed in the forest Bois de St. Remy, close to Ernst Jünger's Tranchée de Calonne at Les Éparges.

An eyewitness claimed the writer took a bullet wound to the head. “The image – the brain of a young artist blown away by the war – would be revived regularly by mourners of the generation of 1914”, writes the Canadian journalist Stephen O’Shea, in his Back to the Front. An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I, quoting a post-war commentator: “We are still suffering from that head wound […] The brain of the world [i.e. France] has undergone a kind of trepanning.” Le Grand Meaulnes, Alain-Fournier’s masterpiece, was about a young man’s attempt to recover a lost world. “News of his passing was treated as emblematic of this literary theme”, O’Shea continues: “An imaginative world was indeed being lost. By the end of the first year of the war, 133 French writers had been killed in the fighting.”

In November 1991, French archaeologists excavated the mass-grave in which Alain-Fournier was buried – the first professional archaeological excavation of material remains of the Great War in France. The archaeological report is now finally published: Frédéric Adam, Alain-Fournier et ses compagnons d'arme: Une archéologie de la Grande-Guerre, la dernière journée. See also Nicholas J. Saunders, Killing Time: Archaeology and the First World War.

360 panorama of the location of the site today,
by Didier Garzandat at
la Truffière de Saint-Remy.