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Marguerite Yourcenar (1903–1987)

Author of Memoirs of Hadrian

97+ Works 12,329 Members 240 Reviews 57 Favorited

About the Author

A French novelist, playwright, and essayist born in Belgium, Marguerite Yourcenar was a resident of the United States for many years, living in isolation on a small island off the coast of Maine. Educated at home by wealthy and cultured parents, she had a strong humanistic background, translating show more the ancient Greek poet Pindar and the poems of the modern Greek Constantine Cavafy. She has translated American Negro spirituals and works of Virginia Woolf (see Vol. 1) and Henry James (see Vol. 1). Her novels include Alexis (1929) and Coup de Grace (1939). A collection of poems, Fires, was published in 1936. Yourcenar is particularly known for Hadrian's Memoirs (1951), a philosophical meditation in the form of a fictional autobiography of the second-century Roman emperor. In Germaine Bree's judgment, "With great erudition and great psychological insight, Marguerite Yourcenar constructed a body of work that is a meditation on the destiny of mankind." In 1981, she became the first woman ever elected to the French Academy. (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Marguerite Yourcenar

Memoirs of Hadrian (1950) — Author — 5,322 copies
The Abyss (1968) — Author — 1,669 copies
Oriental Tales (1938) — Author — 623 copies
Coup de Grâce (1939) — Author — 441 copies
Dear Departed: A Memoir (1974) — Author — 370 copies
Alexis (1928) 370 copies
Two Lives and a Dream (1982) 321 copies
Fires (1935) — Author — 307 copies
How Many Years (1977) — Author — 300 copies
Mishima: A Vision of the Void (1986) — Author — 273 copies
A Coin In Nine Hands (1934) — Author — 267 copies
That Mighty Sculptor, Time (1983) 216 copies
The Dark Brain of Piranesi: and Other Essays (1961) — Author — 203 copies
Le Labyrinthe du monde, tome 3 : Quoi ? L'Eternité (1988) — Author — 184 copies
Alexis / Coup de Grâce (1929) — Author — 172 copies
Anna Soror (1981) — Author — 124 copies
A Blue Tale and Other Stories (1993) — Author — 118 copies
Pellegrina e straniera (1989) 94 copies
Il giro della prigione (1991) 79 copies
Œuvres romanesques (1982) 63 copies
How Wang-Fo Was Saved (1936) — Author — 56 copies
Un homme obscur (1985) 41 copies
La Couronne et la lyre (1979) — Editor; Translator — 40 copies
Le Labyrinthe du monde (1974) — Author — 33 copies
Opere (1990) 29 copies
Dreams and Destinies (1999) 23 copies
The Alms of Alcippe (1982) 19 copies
Poèmes (Blanche) (French Edition) (1958) — Author — 16 copies
La Voix des choses (1987) 15 copies
Fleuve profond, sombre rivière - Les Négro spirituals (1874) — Author; Translator — 14 copies
Cuentos completos (2010) 12 copies
Ensayos (Spanish Edition) (2017) 10 copies
Plays (1984) 10 copies
Scritto in un giardino (1992) 9 copies
Une belle matinée (2003) 8 copies
Sources, tome 2 (1999) 5 copies
Tutto il teatro (1971) 5 copies
Portrait d'une voix (2002) 5 copies
Le bris des routines (2009) 4 copies
Notre-Dame des hirondelles (1937) — Author — 4 copies
Blues et Gospels (1984) 3 copies
Croquis et griffonnis (2009) 3 copies
L'homme couvert de dieux (2012) 3 copies
Le Jardin Des Chimeres (2013) 2 copies
Volta Da Prisao, A (1992) 1 copy
Emléklapok 1 copy
Donar al Cèsar (1990) 1 copy

Associated Works

Complete Poems (1961) — Translator, some editions — 1,761 copies
Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature (1983) — Contributor — 490 copies
Gita Govinda: Love Song of the Dark Lord (1977) — some editions — 188 copies
The Penguin Book of International Gay Writing (1995) — Contributor — 175 copies
The Vintage Book of International Lesbian Fiction (1999) — Contributor — 76 copies
The Grim Reader: Writings on Death, Dying, and Living On (1997) — Contributor — 59 copies
Erotica: racconti di amore e sesso al femminile (1992) — Author — 3 copies


20th century (219) Ancient Rome (104) anthology (106) antiquity (46) autobiography (59) biography (168) classics (54) essays (96) fantasy (65) fiction (908) France (251) French (277) French fiction (106) French literature (670) gay (53) Greece (88) Greek (92) Greek literature (60) Hadrian (79) historical (84) historical fiction (335) historical novel (170) history (183) literature (425) Marguerite Yourcenar (58) memoir (67) narrativa (125) non-fiction (52) novel (234) Novela (86) poetry (707) Roman (212) Roman Empire (76) Rome (153) short stories (170) stories (48) to-read (489) translation (104) unread (47) Yourcenar (69)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Yourcenar, Marguerite
Legal name
de Crayencour, Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck
Date of death
Burial location
Somesville, Maine, USA
Brussels, Belgium
Place of death
Bangor, Maine, USA
Cause of death
Naturelle (Vieillesse)
Places of residence
Brussels, Belgium (birth)
Mount Desert Island, Maine, USA
Northeast Harbor, Maine, USA (death)
Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Lycée de Nice (Baccalauréat)
Education paternelle et précepteurs
short story writer
Frick, Grace (lover)
Académie française (1980)
American Academy of Arts and Letters (Literature, 1982)
Erasmus Prize (1983)
Awards and honors
Grand Prix de Littérature de l'Académie française (1977)
Short biography
Marguerite Yourcenar nacque a Bruxelles nel 1903 e morì negli Stati Uniti nel 1987. Cresciuta nel nord della Francia e a Parigi, trascorse poi la maggior parte della sua vita all’estero, in Italia, Svizzera, Grecia e Stati Uniti. Eletta all’Académie Française nel 1981 (prima e unica donna), è stata autrice di raccolte di versi, poemi in prosa, racconti, lavori teatrali, saggi, traduzioni.



Group Read, June 2017: Memoirs of Hadrian in 1001 Books to read before you die (June 2017)


Really enjoyed the insight this gave me into the world of the ealy milennium Roman Empire. There are many passages that spring to mind, involving the early life of the would-be Emperor of the world, the formation of Hadrian's mindset by years in the Army and in Athens alike. The messages I feel are probably very in keeping with what Hadrian himself would be thinking (this is a historical novel, not a source work). I found his achievements and his observations of his own life among those achievements very moving. Don't forget to read the last section of notes on how the novel came to be over the author's lifetime and interruption by WWII. Many many sections of this work will be in my mind as long as I live.… (more)
Tadams862 | 124 other reviews | Sep 11, 2023 |

Come chiunque altro, io non dispongo che di tre mezzi per valutare l'esistenza umana: lo studio di se stessi e' il metodo piu' difficile, il piu' insidioso, ma anche il piu' fecondo; l'osservazione degli uomini, i quali nella maggior parte dei casi s'adoperano per nasconderci i loro segreti o per farci credere di averne; e i libri, con i caratteristici errori di prospettiva che sorgono tra le righe. (p. 317)

Quando tutti i calcoli astrusi si dimostrano falsi, quando persino i filosofi non hanno piu' nulla da dirci, e' scusabile volgerci verso il cicaleccio fortuito degli uccelli, o verso il contrappeso remoto degli astri. (p. 321)

Il vero luogo natio e' quello dove per la prima volta si e' posato uno sguardo consapevole su se stessi: la mia prima patria sono stati i libri. (p. 325)

... volevo trovare la cerniera ove la nostra volonta' s'articola al destino; ove la disciplina, anziche' frenarla, asseconda la natura. (p. 334)

Adriano: ... aver ragione troppo presto equivale ad aver torto. (p. 369)

Animula, vagula, blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abidis in loca
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos.

Little soul, roamer and charmer
Body' guest and companion
Who soon will depart to places
Darkish, chilly and misty
An end to all your jokes.

… (more)
NewLibrary78 | Jul 22, 2023 |
Ms. Yourcenar worked on this fictional memoir of the Roman emperor Hadrian for at least 20 years and it is considered a classic of historical fiction. I found it fine, but its greatness may be beyond me. I was very interested in the postscript in which the author describes how she wrote the book, her literary and human sources, which characters were real and which were created, and how and why she made various decisions about content. The only thing that caught my eye was a mention of Jesus which seemed to be an anachronism for someone born in the year 76 CE who was not a Christian.

I read a Kindle version of this book which is not listed in the Goodreads database. It lists illustrations with what looks like an associated dead internet link; so, I saw no figures. Many of the described figures are easily found on the internet.
… (more)
markm2315 | 124 other reviews | Jul 1, 2023 |
Ma come fate a dargli cinque stelle ?
La banalità fatta libro
AsdMinghe | 124 other reviews | Jun 4, 2023 |


Europe (1)
1960s (1)


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