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Marguerite Yourcenar


Marguerite Yourcenar was born Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour in 1903 in Brussels of a French father and Belgian mother. Her mother died ten days later from complications from giving birth. Her father took her to Mont-Noir in the French Flanders, where she was brought up and educated at home. When her grandmother died in 1909, the family moved to Paris but they travelled a lot. She started writing early, particularly poetry, and had her first collection published (at her father’s expense) when she was nineteen. She adopted the pseudonym Yourcenar which is more or less an anagram of Creyencour. Her father died in 1929, around the time when she started publishing novels and also when she lost a significant amount of the money she had inherited from her mother, in the Wall Street Crash. In 1937, she met an American translator, Grace Frick. Yourcenar was thinking of going to Greece just prior to World War II but Frick invited her to the United States. They lived together till Frick’s death in 1979. Yourcenar became an American citizen in 1947.

She is best known for her novel Mémoires d’Hadrien (Memoirs of Hadrian). It took her ten years to write it but brought her an unexpected success. In 1970, she was elected to the Belgian Academy (Académie Royale de langue et de littérature françaises) and then, in 1980, became the first woman elected to the French Academy. She remained in the United States till her death in 1987, living most of her life in her home on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

Books about Marguerite Yourcenar

Michèle Goslar: Yourcenar (in French)
George Rousseau: Marguerite Yourcenar: A Biography
Josyane Savigneau: Marguerite Yourcenar: Inventing a Life (also in French)

Other sites

Marguerite Yourcenar
Marguerite Yourcenar
Marguerite Yourcenar
Yourcenar, Marguerite (1903-1987)
On Power And History: What Marguerite Yourcenar Knew
Marguerite Yourcenar (in French)
Marguerite Yourcenar (in French)
Marguerite Yourcenar (in French)
Biographie de Marguerite Yourcenar (in French)
Marguerite Yourcenar et l’amour viril (in French)
Yourcenar, déesse-mère de son cosmos (in French)
Marguerite Yourcenar à Lille, Paris, dans le Sud, etc. (in French)
Centre International de Documentation Marguerite Yourcenar (in French)
Marguerite Yourcenar (about Yourcenar and the Yourcenar Museum (see site below) – in French)
Centenaire Marguerite Yourcenar (despite the title about Yourcenar and music – in French)
Marthe Peyroux (site of Yourcenar expert with links to some of her articles on Yourcenar – in French)


1921 Le jardin des chimères (poetry)
1922 Les Dieux ne sont pas morts (poetry)
1929 Alexis ou le traité du vain combat (Alexis) (novel)
1931 La nouvelle Eurydice (novel)
1932 Pindare (criticism)
1932 Dialogue dans le marécage (drama)
1934 Denier du rêve (A Coin in Nine Hands) (novel)
1934 La mort conduit l’attelage (novellas)
1934 Les Dieux ne sont pas morts (stories)
1936 Feux (Fires) (poetry/prose poems)
1938 Nouvelles orientales (Oriental Tales) (stories)
1938 Les songes et les sorts (Dreams and Destinies) (essay)
1939 Le coup de grace (Coup de Grace) (novel)
1951 Mémoires d’Hadrien (Memoirs of Hadrian) (novel)
1954 Électre ou La chute des masques (Electra) (drama)
1954 L’Ecrivain devant l’histoire
1956 Les charités d’Alcippe (The Alms of Alcippe) (poetry)
1958 Presentation critique de Constantin Cavafy, 1863-1933 (criticism)
1962 Sous bénéfice d’inventaire (The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays) (novel)
1963 Le Mystere d’Alceste; Qui n’a pas son minotaure? (To Each His Minotaur) (drama)
1968 L’Oeuvre au noir (The Abyss) (novel)
1969 Présentation critique d’Hortense Flexner (criticism)
1971 Théâtre (Plays) (drama)
1974 Souvenirs pieux, suivi de L’Album de Fernande (Dear Departed) (autobiography)
1977 Archives du Nord (How Many Years) (autobiography)
1979 Comment Wang-Fo fut sauvé (children)
1980 Les Yeux ouverts: Entretiens avec Matthieu Galey (With Open Eyes: Conversations with Matthieu Galey)
1980 Mishima; ou La Vision du vide (Mishima: A Vision of the Void) (biography)
1981 Anna, soror… (novella)
1982 Comme l’eau qui coule (Two Lives and a Dream) (stories)
1984 Le temps, ce grand sculpteur (That Mighty Sculptor, Time) (essays)
1985 Le Cheval noir à tête blanche: Contes enfants Indiens (children)
1985 Un homme obscur; suivi de Une belle matinee (novellas)
1988 Quoi? L’Éternité (Quoi? L’Eternité: Autobiography, Part 3) (autobiography)
1989 En pèlerin et en étranger: Essais
1991 Essais et mémoires
1991 Le tour de la prison (essays)
1992 Ecrit dans un jardin
1993 Conte Bleu, le Premier Soir, Maléfice (A Blue Tale and Other Stories) (stories)
1995 Lettres à ses amis et quelques autres
1996 Les Voyages de Marguerite Yourcenar (travel diaries)
1999 Sources (notebooks)
1999 Sources II (notebooks)
2002 Portrait d’une voix: vingt-trois entretiens, 1952-1987
2004 D’Hadrien à Zénon: correspondance, 1951-1956
2007 Une volonté sans fléchissement: correspondance, 1957-1960
2010 D’Hadrien à Zénon III