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Memoirs of Hadrian (1951)

by Marguerite Yourcenar

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,260971,922 (4.15)184
Both an exploration of character and a reflection on the meaning of history, "Memoirs of Hadrian" has received international acclaim since its first publication in France in 1951. In it, Marguerite Yourcenar reimagines the Emperor Hadrian's arduous boyhood, his triumphs and reversals, and finally, as emperor, his gradual reordering of a war-torn world, writing with the imaginative insight of a great writer of the twentieth century while crafting a prose style as elegant and precise as those of the Latin stylists of Hadrian's own era.… (more)
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» See also 184 mentions

English (63)  French (9)  Spanish (7)  Italian (7)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Sad, beautiful boy
his face on every statue
such enduring grief. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
60/2020. "natura deficit, fortuna mutatur, deus omnia cernit"

Is this well written and well researched? Yes. Does the author's own bisexual experience show? Yes. Does it additionally show roots in French and US cultures of the first half of the twentieth century? Also inevitably yes.

One of the more dubious outcomes of a Western classical education is indoctrination into the normalisation of a rigid caste system with slaves at the base. Interestingly, an Indian classical education has a similar effect. On the plus side of the ledger, perceiving a wider historical and social background does tend to put religious and nationalist fanaticisms into perspective.

Grace Frick's translation reads extremely well.

On infirmity: "Thus from each art practiced in its time I derive a knowledge which compensates me in part for pleasures lost. I have supposed, and in my better moments think so still, that it would be possible in this manner to participate in the existence of everyone; such sympathy would be one of the least revocable kinds of immortality."

Predictive: "When all the involved calculations prove false, and the philosophers themselves have nothing more to tell us, it is excusable to turn to the random twitter of birds [....]"

Education: "Grammar, with its mixture of logical rule and arbitrary usage, proposes to a young mind a foretaste of what will be offered to him later on by law and ethics, those sciences of human conduct, and by all the systems whereby man has codified his instinctive experience." ( )
  spiralsheep | Jun 17, 2020 |
This historical novel has a great deal of promise but is ultimately a disappointment. Written as a series of letters from the aging emperor Hadrian to his adopted son (the future emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), the novel strives to convey the daily life of the emperor as well as his thoughts, philosophy and history. Sadly the book, which perhaps could have made an interesting work of history, falls flat as a novel. This is not helped by the stilted prose style, possibly the result of a translation trying to twist the English language into the form of the original French. ( )
  Lirmac | Oct 1, 2019 |
Dropped @ 50%

Telling instead of showing is cancer.
  NenadN | Sep 6, 2019 |
I read this book because there is a group read in the 1001 books group. It sounded interesting, a first person narrative of the Roman Emperor Hadrian who was emperor in the 2nd century. There were aspects I really enjoyed in the book, but there were also some elements lacking for me.

I know very little about Roman history and I was hoping this would enlighten me a bit, but I felt the history mainly provided a backdrop for the man. There wasn't much in depth exploration of culture or even historical events. I should say this wasn't present in an obvious enough manner to work for me. For those who have a strong background in the era, I think they would find that Yourcenar weaves these elements in to her portrait and probably really appreciate the details. There were a couple things that jumped out at me - one was how the next ruler was picked not through genealogical heredity, but through the preference of the current ruler who then "adopted" this next ruler. I also thought the discussion of the fighting in Palestine with the Jews there seemed to have many of the same issues present today, almost 2000 years later.

Most people should approach this book as the self-portrait of a leader at the end of his life, preoccupied with death and legacy. His thoughts on death are poignant and relevant and his preoccupation with the legacy he'll leave behind is also interesting and well thought out. Actually, though, possibly my favorite part of the book was the end section where the author lays out the personal journey that led her to completing this book.

This was certainly ambitious and thoroughly researched, but it was not without its issues for me and I ended the book glad to be done with it. ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 7, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
'La mayoría de los hombres gusta resumir su vida en una fórmula, a veces jactanciosa o quejumbrosa, casi siempre recriminatoria; el recuerdo les fabrica, complaciente, una existencia explicable y clara. Mi vida tiene contornos menos definidos. Como suele suceder, lo que no fui es quizá lo que más ajustadamente la define: buen soldado pero en modo alguno hombre de guerra; aficionado al arte, pero no ese artista que Nerón creyó ser al morir; capaz de cometer crímenes, pero no abrumado por ellos. Pienso a veces que los grandes hombres se caracterizan precisamente por su posición extrema; su heroísmo está en mantenerse en ella toda la vida. Son nuestros polos o nuestros antípodas'.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
 

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yourcenar, MargueriteAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bailey, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Calderaro, MarthaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Creus, JaumeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duquesnoy, TheodorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frick, GraceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hakamies, ReinoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hornelund, KarlTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jaffé, FritzÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandfort, J.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Storoni Mazzolani, LidiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuin, JennyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallquist, GunnelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Animula vagula, blandula, hospes comesque corporis, quae nunc abibis in loca pallidula, rigida, nudula, nec, ut soles, dabis iocos ... P. Aelius Hadrianus, Imp.
Dedication
First words
My dear Mark,
Today I went to see my physician Hermogenes, who has just returned to the Villa from a rather long journey in Asia.
Quotations
I am trusting to this examination of facts to give me some definition of myself, and to judge myself, perhaps, or at the very least to know myself better before I die.
Thus from each art practiced in its time I derive a knowledge which compensates me in part for pleasures lost. I have supposed, and in my better moments think so still, that it would be possible in this manner to participate in the existence of everyone; such sympathy would be one of the least revocable kinds of immortality.
Grammar, with its mixture of logical rule and arbitrary usage, proposes to a young mind a foretaste of what will be offered to him later on by law and ethics, those sciences of human conduct, and by all the systems whereby man has codified his instinctive experience.
natura deficit, fortuna mutatur, deus omnia cernit
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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