Alain-Fournier was the pseudonym of Henri Alban-Fournier (October 3, 1886 – September 22, 1914), a French author and soldier. He was the author of a single novel, Le Grand Meaulnes (1913), which is considered a classic of French literature.
In 1914, Alain-Fournier started work on a second novel, Colombe Blanchet, but this remained unfinished when he joined the army as a Lieutenant in August. He joined the front with the 288th reserve infantry regiment. After fighting just a few weeks, on 22 September Alain-Fournier was killed in action south of Verdun. Reported missing with 20 of his comrades-in-arms, his body was found in 1991 by a team of local searchers in a mass grave where German soldiers had buried him. These local searchers obtained the support of French state archaeological service (AFAN), today the Institut de Recherches en Archéologie Préventive (INRAP), lead by Frédéric Adam.
It was the first time that excavation of First World War military burial grounds had been entrusted to a team of archaeologists. The importance of the excavation does not only lie in the exhumation of a literary celebrity of the Belle Epoque; it also stands out as one of the very first excavations of French archaeological sites of the twentieth century.
In 1992, the remains of the 21 men from the 288th infantry regiment exhumed from Saint-Rémy Wood, including those of Alain-Fournier, received a proper burial. Henri-Alban Fournier’s final resting place is now Saint-Rémy-la-Calonne National Cemetery in the Meuse.
To know more about this archeological discovery: FREDERIC ADAM. Alain-Fournier et ses compagnons d’arme: une archéologie de la Grande Guerre. 220 pages, 102 illustrations. 2006. Metz: Editions Serpenoise.