Used as a literary pseudonym (and, curiously, being an anagram of her surname, Crayencour) and her official name after being naturalized American, Yourcenar was born in Brussels in 1903. Her parents were part of aristocratic families with a taste for intellectuality; when her mother died when Marguerite was only ten days old, her father educated her in classical languages and philosophical readings from an early age.
In this context the personality of one of the novelists, translators, poets and playwrights who are key to Francophone and literature developed: that of Marguerite Yourcenar.
Between 1929, when she published her first novel, ‘Alexis’, and 1951, her masterpiece’s year ‘Memoirs of Hadrien’, Marguerite translated Virginia Woolf, Henry James or Yukio Mishima, published numerous acclaimed works, in addition to teaching comparative Literature in New York City. The World War will push her to begin a personal and professional period in the US, that will last until her death in 1987.
The work that follows the life and death of the Emperor Hadrien was a resounding success and is among the greatest in Modern Literature. Her way of documenting and developing the historical novel put a new beginning in this genre. Her rich writing style is shown in other novels of historicist roots, as ‘Opus Nigrum’, plus essays, poetry and her memoirs, in three volumes.
Among her awards, we can cite the Femina and Erasmus, plus the chairs in the Academies of Belgian and French language -she was the first woman in history to become a member, in the second. Her personal files and literary work is kept in the Houghton Library of Harvard University and we can discover in those a magnificent view of the emotional and human beings, an approximation to the essence of the person and relationships, passions, all worth, of an impressive and artistic quality. Let’s find out by reading some of her quotes:
Listen to your head, but talk from the heart.
Beyond the pain and joy, dignity in being.
Between us there is something better than love: a complicity.
Nothing is slower than the true birth of a man.
Observe the humble disciplines. Faithfulness in little things.
The true birthplace is one where we look for the first time with a smart look.
Just being at ease is when we are free, and concealing our opinions is even more annoying than covering our skin.
Our big mistake is to try to obtain from ourselves virtues that we have not, and to neglect the cultivation of those possessed.
Make of each space we are a clean, airy, light, an oasis for oneself and for others.
For my side, I believe that the uneducated spirit was that of the ones who got caught by their own lies, and bigotry ran on it along with cunning.
Suffering makes us selfish because it absorbs entirely: only later, as we recall it, it teaches us compassion.
Everything would transform us if we dared to be what we are.
This is a fleeting moment, but its intensity makes it appear eternal.
All pleasure, tastefully felt, seems chaste.
Laws change less rapidly than customs; they are dangerous when they lag behind these, but they are even more when they try to precede them.
Life is the mystery of every human being, it is so admirable that we can always love it.
I wish you a very happy week,