Yourcenar 1903 - 1987 (84)
Memoirs of Hadrian
Marguerite Yourcenar (born Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour, she adopted Yourcenar at the age of 16 when she published some of her poems) was a French writer and poet, widely regarded as one of the most important figures of the 20th century. She holds the distinction of being the first woman to become a member of the French Academy. Born on June 8, 1903, in Brussels, she spent her early years in the ancestral tower of Mont-Noir. Tragically, her mother passed away just ten days after giving birth, and Marguerite was raised by her grandmother, along with a rotation of housekeepers and tutors, within the tower's 100 rooms. Although her father frequently traveled, he ensured that Marguerite received an exceptional education, employing tutors in accordance with aristocratic traditions. She received a comprehensive linguistic education, mastering modern languages, Latin, and ancient Greek.
As she grew older, Marguerite accompanied her father on his journeys. In 1928, at the age of 25, she published her first novel, "Alexis," which depicted a young man struggling to suppress his homosexual desires despite being married. Marguerite was open about her own homosexuality. The following year, her father passed away, and she embarked on a series of solo travels, exploring destinations such as Paris, Lausanne, Constantinople, Athens, and the Greek islands.
Marguerite developed a deep affinity for Greece and made numerous visits to the country until 1939. During this time, she translated poems by Cavafy, compiled an anthology of Greek poetry, and forged connections with various Greeks, including Empirikos, to whom she dedicated her book "Stories of the East." In 1937, she entered into a romantic relationship with her translator, Grace Frick, who later took her to New York. Marguerite taught courses in comparative literature and, in 1939, they settled in Mount Desert Island, Maine, where they purchased a log house and lived together until Frick's death in 1979. Throughout her life, Marguerite traveled extensively and dedicated herself to writing.
In 1951, she achieved worldwide fame with the publication of "Memoirs of Hadrian," a work she had been developing since her twenties. This masterpiece stands as one of the most significant representations of Hellenistic Rome and ancient history. Marguerite Yourcenar received numerous awards in recognition of her literary accomplishments and was bestowed with the honorary title of professor in multiple colleges and universities, including Harvard. In 1980, the French Academy shattered its 345-year tradition by accepting her as the first female member among the esteemed "immortals." Marguerite continued her globetrotting lifestyle until her passing on December 17, 1987, following a stroke.