Marguerite Yourcenar  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Marguerite Yourcenar was the pseudonym of French novelist Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour (June 8, 1903 - December 17, 1987). She was the daughter of Michel de Crayencour and Ferdinande (Fernande) de Cartier de Marchienne. Marguerite Yourcenar was the first woman to be elected to the Académie Française, in 1980.

Her first novel, Alexis, was published in 1929. Her intimate companion at the time, a translator named Grace Frick, invited her to America, where she lectured in comparative literature in New York City. She and Frick became lovers in 1937, and would remain so until Frick's death in 1979.

In 1951 she published, in France, the French-language novel Mémoires d'Hadrien (translated as Memoirs of Hadrian), which she had been writing with pauses for a decade. The novel was an immediate success and met with great critical acclaim.

In this novel Yourcenar recreated the life and death of one of the great rulers of the ancient world, the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who writes a long letter to Marcus Aurelius, his successor and adoptive son. The Emperor meditates on his past, describing both his triumphs and his failures, his love for Antinous, and his philosophy. This novel has become a modern classic, a standard against which fictional recreations of Antiquity are measured. However, some Israeli critics objected to Yourcenar's "underplaying" Hadrian's harsh repression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in Judea, for which this emperor is remembered as a villain in Jewish tradition.

Yourcenar was elected as the first female member of the Académie française, in 1980. One of the respected writers in French language, she published many novels, essays, and poems, as well as three volumes of memoirs.

Yourcenar lived much of her life at Petite Plaisance in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Petite Plaisance is now a museum dedicated to her memory.


  • Le jardin des chimères (1921)
  • Alexis ou le traité du vain combat (1929)
  • La nouvelle Eurydice (1931)
  • Pindare (1932)
  • Denier du rêve (1934, revised 1958–59)
    • A Coin in Nine Hands
  • La mort conduit l'attelage (1934)
  • Feux (prose poem, 1936)
  • Nouvelles orientales (short stories, 1938)
  • Les songes et les sorts (1938)
  • Le coup de grâce (1939)
  • Mémoires d'Hadrien (1951)
    • Memoirs of Hadrian (translated by Grace Frick)
  • Électre ou La chute des masques (1954)
  • Les charités d'Alcippe (1956)
  • Constantin Cavafy (1958)
  • Sous bénéfice d'inventaire (1962)
    • Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays (1984)
  • Fleuve profond, sombre rivière: les negros spirituals (1964)
  • L'Œuvre au noir (novel, 1968, Prix Femina 1968)
  • Yes, Peut-être, Shaga (1969)
  • Théâtre, 1971
  • Souvenirs pieux (1974)
    • Dear Departed: A Memoir translated by Maria Louise Ascher
  • Archives du Nord (1977)
    • How Many Years: A Memoir translated by Maria Louise Ascher
  • Le labyrinthe du monde (1974-84)
  • Mishima ou la vision du vide (essay, 1980)
  • Anna, soror... (1981)
  • Comme l'eau qui coule (1982)
  • Le temps, ce grand sculpteur (1984)
    • That Mighty Sculptor, Time
  • Quoi? L'Éternité (1988)

Other works available in English translation

  • A Blue Tale and Other Stories, ISBN 0-226-96530-9. Three stories written between 1927 and 1930, translated and published 1995.
  • Dreams and Destinies, ISBN 0-312-21289-5 (1999)
  • Two Lives and a Dream, ISBN 0-226-96529-5 (contains An Obscure Man, "A Lovely Morning" and Anna, Soror...)
  • With Open Eyes: Conversations With Matthieu Galey

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Marguerite Yourcenar" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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