Messieurs and Yourcenar
“A touch of madness is, I think, almost always necessary for constructing a destiny”. MY
Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour (June 8 1903 – December 17 1987) was a Belgian-born French novelist who wrote under the pseudonym Marguerite Yourcenar.
Every silence is composed of nothing but unspoken words. Perhaps that is why I became a musician. Someone had to express this silence, make it render up all the sadness it contained, make it sing as it were. Someone had to use not words, which are always too precise not to be cruel, but simply music. MY on “Alexis” (1929)
In 1951 she published, in France, the novel “Mémoires d’Hadrien“, 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, the son and heir of Antoninus Pius, 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.
“Leisure moments: each life well regulated has some such intervals, and he who cannot make way for them does not know how to live.” MY on Memoirs of “Hadrian” (1951)
“Beyond this village, other villages; beyond this abbey, other abbeys; and after the fortress, more fortresses still. And each of these castles of stone and each wooden hut has its structure of fixed ideas or flimsy, ill-based opinions superposed above it within which fools stay immured, but the wise find apertures for escape”. MY on “The Abyss” (1968)
Yourcenar was elected as the first female member of the Académie française in 1980. An anecdote tells of how the bathroom labels were then changed in this male-dominated institution: (Messieurs (Men) and Yourcenar).