Reader's Encyclopedia

Yourcenar, Marguerite (pen name, anagram, of Marguerite de Crayencour, 1903 - 1987)

Belgian - born French novelist; naturalized American citizen, resident in U.S. since 1940. Yourcenar is known for her historical novels, particularly Le Coup de grâce (1939; translated as Coup de Grâce, 1957), the story of a Prussian officer who murders the woman who loves him because he loves her brother, and Mémoires d'Hadrien (1951; translated as Memoirs of Hadrian, 1954). The memoirs portray the emperor on the eve of his death and describe his reflections as he gazes out upon the city that seemed to him indestructible and that he now fears will fall. As with most of her work, the book is a minutely researched reconstruction of actual events in the distant past through which she develops penetrating and fully credible portraits of the people she describes. Her only novel with a contemporary setting is Denier du rêve (1934; translated as A Coin in Nine Hands, 1982), about an assassination attempt on Mussolini, written while she lived in Italy. Her other novels include La Nouvelle Eurydice (1931), Sous bénéfice d'inventaire (1962), L'Oeuvre au noir (1968; translated as The Abyss, 1976), Souvenirs pieux (1974), and Alexis (1965; translated 1984). She has also written the prose poems Feux (1935; translated as Fires, 1981) and Fleuve profound, sombre riviére (1974), several plays, and two volumes of her family memoirs, Le Labyrinthe du monde (1977) and Archives du nord (1977). In January 1981 she became the first woman to be elected to the Académie française.

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