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Marguerite Yourcenar Quick Facts
Marguerite Yourcenar , born Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck from Crayencour in Brussels and died the in Bar Harbor in the State of Maine (United States), is a French woman of letters (naturalized American in 1947). & Nbsp; Novelist, novelist and autobiographer, she is also poet, translator, essayist and literary critic.
She was the first woman elected member of the French Academy in 1980.
Marguerite Yourcenar’s Biography
Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck of Crayencour – this last name, that of a land acquired by the family, added to the surname in the eighteenth century – was born in a house on Avenue Louise, in Brussels, from a father from French Flanders and from a family of the former bourgeoisie, Michel Cleenewerck from Crayencour, and a mother, Fernande de Cartier Marchienne, belonging to the Belgian nobility, who died ten days after birth.
Marguerite is raised by her paternal grandmother Noémi Dufresne (of which she makes, in Archives of the North, an acid portrait) by her father, anti-conformist and great traveler it spends its winters in Lille and summers, until the First World War, in the family castle located at Mont-Noir in the town of Saint-Jans-Cappel (North), built in 1824 by his great-grandfather Amable Dufresne (1801-1875) and which will remain the property of the Dufresne family until the death of Noémi in 1909. Michel Cleenewerck of Crayencour, the father of Marguerite Yourcenar, sells it in 1913, shortly after having inherited it. The castle will be destroyed during the fighting of the First World War (see Villa Marguerite Yourcenar).
She validates the first part of her Bachelor’s degree in Nice, without having attended school. His first poem, The Garden of Chimeras, was published by the author in 1921 and signed Yourcenar, anagram of Crayencour at the omission of a C near, pseudonym invented with the help and agreement of his father and which will become her legal name in 1947 when she received American citizenship.
She accompanies her father, a cultured and unconventional man, in his travels: London during the First World War, the South of France, Switzerland, Italy where she discovers with him the Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli ; she observes her, attends to her loves, of which she will make the fabric of What? Eternity.
In 1929, she published her first novel, inspired by André Gide, of a precise, cold and classic style: Alexis or the Traité du vain combat. It is a long letter in which a man, a renowned musician, confides to his wife his homosexuality and his decision to leave her for the sake of truth and frankness. The ” Monique ” of the text is none other than the great love of Yourcenar’s father, who was also a former classmate of his mother, Jeanne de Vietinghoff. After the death of his father in 1929 (however, he had time to read his daughter’s first novel), Marguerite Yourcenar leads a bohemian life between Paris, Lausanne, Athens, the Greek Islands, Istanbul, Brussels, etc. Bisexual , Yourcenar loves women and falls in love with a homosexual man, André Fraigneau, writer and publisher at Grasset.
She publishes the Nouvelles Orientales, echoes of her travels, Feux, composed of texts of mythological or religious inspiration interspersed with apothegms, where the author discusses the theme of amorous despair and sentimental suffering in different modes. late in The Coup de Grace (1939), a short novel about a love trio set in Courland during the 1920 Polish-Russian War.
Departure for the United States
In 1939, when Europe was visibly moving towards war, Marguerite Yourcenar left for the United States to join Grace Frick, then professor of British literature in New York and his companion since a chance meeting in Paris in February 1937 at the Wagram Hotel.
Grace Frick gives up her academic career, financially and psychologically supports Marguerite Yourcenar during the war and becomes the translator of her work in English. They settled on Mount Desert Island, Maine, in 1950, which they had discovered together in 1942, and named their house Petite-Plaisance. Yourcenar will spend the rest of his life there naturalized American in 1947, she taught French literature and the history of art until 1953.
Grace Frick organizes their life, does not complain after her breast removal in 1958 and must reassure her hypochondriac companion and prone to depression. The two women lived together until Frick died of breast cancer in 1979.
His novel Memoirs of Hadrian, in 1951, was a worldwide success and definitively established his reputation as a major writer, consecrated in 1970 by his election to the Royal Academy of French Language and Literature in Belgium and in 1980 by her election to the French Academy, for which she is supported by Jean d’Ormesson. She says she hesitated for a long time in choosing her subject between the Emperor Hadrian and the Persian scientist of the Middle Ages Omar Khayyam.
The novel L’Oeuvre au noir, begun in 1923-1924, appears in 1968 and is the keystone of Yourcenar’s work: ” L’Œuvre au noir, begun (under another title)) at the time when I was young Zeno, the same Henri-Maximilian at the beginning of the book. Finished when I was a little older than Zeno and Henry Maximilian when they stumbled over their deaths. “Zeno embodies the spirit of the Renaissance, both of his time by his desire for knowledge and freedom but ahead of it to the point of being crushed by what remains in it of obscurantisms. In this way, Zeno transcends his time and represents a universal and timeless position, that of the Socratic hero who gives more value to his freedom than to his life and decides to face death in the face: “Let’s get in. in death with open eyes. “14 He especially embodies the one who is passing through, for whom the quest for meaning necessarily passes through the abyss. Against a type of abyss in which Hans Castorp collapses in Thomas Mann: ” hero, which is accomplished by means of a slow self-destruction, and during a kind of total incarceration in se “, yourcenarian quest is that of the Heraclitean Being eternally in the making.
These are the major protagonists who roam the work of Yourcenar. Since translating the quest for The Nature of Identity so well rendered in The Waves of Virginia Woolf, the paradoxes of sexuality in The Coup de Grace, passing through The Tower of the prison and two vain personal attempts to surrender in Nepal, Yourcenar elaborates The Labyrinth of the World, which transmutes the work of a literary epic life. The writer asserts thus his own identity & nbsp ;: As long as an invented being does not matter to us as much as ourselves, there is nothing .
Election at the French Academy
Yourcenar is the first woman to sit on the Académie française where she succeeds Roger Caillois, to whom she has devoted an essay. The last part of his life is divided between writing in the isolation of the island of Monts-Déserts and long journeys, including journeys around the world with the young American director Jerry Wilson, his last secretary and companion of whom the color photographs illustrate La Voix des Choses, a choice of texts by the writer. Jerry Wilson died of AIDS on February 8, 1986.
Marguerite Yourcenar died on December 17, 1987 in Bar Harbor. Her ashes are deposited in Brookside Cemetery in Somesville, one of the villages in the municipality of Mount Desert next to the small log house she rented with Grace Frick during the first three summers of the couple in Maine. Three funerary slabs are there: the first, reserved for Grace Frick, bears the inscription, taken from the Memoirs of Hadrian, ” HOSPES COMESQUE ” (she is the host and the companion). The second, in Malachite, intended for Jerry Wilson, deals with the slice of the inscription in Greek ” nΩΝ ΕΡΩΣ ” (Saphron Eros which means according to Yourcenar the calm and intelligent love). Finally, the third, engraved partially before his death, is the one that covers his ashes and bears an epitaph taken from L’Oeuvre au noir & nbsp ;: May it be the one who is perhaps to dilate the heart of the man to the measure of all life.
From historical novels to autobiographical memoirs, Yourcenar’s work is characterized first and foremost by the aesthetic elaboration of its language, with a refined and classical style, and by the privilege given to the narration. Inspired by both Oriental wisdom and Greco-Latin philosophy, the writer’s thought is particularly recognizable in the humanism of the Renaissance, understood as a universal curiosity nourished by the reading of ancient books:
” The true place of birth is when one first wisely glimpsed about oneself: my first homelands were the books. ”
– Hadrian’s Memoirs
Yourcenar was fluent in ancient Greek and Latin and had a vast knowledge of ancient literature. For the writing of the Memoirs of Hadrian, she gathers an exhaustive documentation and reads all the preserved literature of the time of Hadrian.
His abundant correspondence has been published partially under the title Letters to his friends and some others (Gallimard, 1995). A complete edition is in progress at the same publisher (three volumes published to date for the period from 1951 to 1963).
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