Marguerite Yourcenar – Madame Bibliotheque

Musee Marguerite Yourcenar my museum

It has been a while since I read something interesting about M.Yourcenar, an erudite and eccentric Grande Dame of Letters, so refreshing to find this article by Joan Acocella, Becoming an Emperor or how Marguerite Yourcenar reinvented the past. New Yorker magazine. I did not know that Yourcenar spent half of her life in USA, and even had a citizenship and taught at Sarah Lawrence.

John Updike described her writing as marmoreal and elegant – thus pasted in the back of book “That Mighty Sculptor, Time”. (Marmoreal means like a marble or statue – learned a new word today.)

More about M. Y. “Her many meditations on the meaning of love and pleasure often had their roots in personal crisis; yet they were always filtered through historical, mythological or fictitious characters.”

Here is a sample of her writing;

Febo del Poggio

I am awakening. What did the others say? Dawn, you who reconstruct the world each morning: complete, with naked arms that hold the universe: youth, the dawn of man. What does it matter to me what others have said, thought, believed…I am Febo del Poggio, a scoundrel. Those who speak of me say that I have a base soul; but perhaps I have no soul at all. I exist in the way a piece of fruit exists, a glass of wine, a splendid tree. When winter comes, one abandons the tree that no longer offers shade; when one’s hunger is sated. one throws away the pit; when the glass is empty, one takes another. I accept that. Summer, the lustral water of morning over lithe limbs; O joy, dew of the heart….
I am awakening. Before me, behind me, there is eternal night. For millions of ages I have slept; for millions of ages I shall sleep again…I have but one hour. Why would you spoil it with explanations or maxims? I stretch out in the sun, on the pillow of pleasure, in a morning that will never again return.

(Excerpt from a book “That Mighty Sculptor, Time” by M. Yourcenar).

“The Vision of the Void” was her book on Mishima, where she interpreted Mishima’s suicide as part of his work. A few reviews that I read online were all very negative, and I have not read her Mishima even though her writing on Mishima was how I came to know her.
She visited Borges and spent some times with him just before he died. Her tribute to Borges became her last piece of writing.


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