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Grace and I went to visit him, and thought that it would be nice to have a house in this still then peaceful island. There were luxury houses, sort of chalets for millionnaires, or village houses with no facilities, and nothing in between. We finally bought a simple house and modernized it, putting in central heating and a few other amenities. Did you know that Mount Desert was discovered by the French sailor and explorer Champlain? His ship developed some trouble and he had to stay there for a while to have it repaired.

He named it Mount Desert, but alas it is now anything but deserted, and in summer boatloads of tourists pour in from everywhere. One striking aspect of your work is that nearly all your protagonists have been male homosexuals: Alexis, Eric, Hadrian, Zenon, Mishima. Why is it that you have never created a woman who would be an example of female sexual deviance? I do not like the word homosexual , which I think is dangerous—for it enhances prejudice—and absurd. Anyway, homosexuality, as you call it, is not the same phenomenon in a man as in a woman.

Love for women in a woman is different from love for men in a man. But let us go back to a passage in Hadrian where he says that a man who thinks , who is engaged upon a philosophical problem or devising a theorem, is neither a man nor a woman, nor even human. He is something else. It is very rare that one could say that about a woman. Even without reaching the high level of someone like Hadrian, one is in the same mental space, and it is unimportant whether one is a man or a woman.

Can I say also that love between women interests me less, because I have never met with a great example of it.

Paris Review - Marguerite Yourcenar, The Art of Fiction No.

But there are writers, like Gertrude Stein and Colette, who have tried to illuminate female homosexuality. I do not happen to like Colette and Gertrude Stein. The latter is completely foreign to me; Colette, in matters of eroticism, often falls to the level of a Parisian concierge.

You look for an example of a woman who is in love with another woman, but how is she in love? Is it an ardent passion of a few months? Or a bond of friendship over a long period? Or something in between? What matters is the feelings, emotions, relationships between people. Nonetheless, having portrayed Hadrian so eloquently, could you have done something similar on, say, Sappho?


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And you have been very discreet about your own life, with Grace Frick for example. We must set Sappho aside, since we know next to nothing about her. As for my own life: There are times when one must reveal certain things, because otherwise things could not be said with verisimilitude. And I was not raped by a Lithuanian sergeant, nor lodged in a ruined castle! As for my relationship with Grace Frick, I met her when we were both women of a certain age, and it went through different stages: During the last ten years of her life she was very ill.

I tried to help her till the end, but she was no longer the center of my existence, and perhaps had never been. The same is true reciprocally, of course. But what is love? This species of ardor, of warmth, that propels one inexorably toward another being? Why give so much importance to the genitourinary system of people? It does not define a whole being, and it is not even erotically true. What matters, as I said, concerns emotions, relationships. But whom you fall in love with depends largely on chance. Do you think the emphasis on the physical, sexual aspect of love is due partly to psychoanalysis?

Freud turns sexuality into a sort of metaphor, and a metaphor not quite worked out. It seems that he was a great innovator, being the first to speak of sexuality with frankness. But that does not make his theories acceptable. But he did not ruin literature—it was not in his power to do so, since literature is a very great thing. And then no one thinks of Freud in terms of his time and circumstances.

He came from a poor, orthodox Jewish family, living in a little provincial town. Naturally, as a young professor, he was struck by examples of pleasure in Vienna.

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As a result he saw the world from this double perspective. It is not so much his pioneering work as a doctor one questions now, but his philosophic-psychological extrapolations. He makes a number of extravagant extrapolations, starting from very limited, restricted, and small premises. Hence its attraction for the modern world. But he was the first man to speak about sexuality with sincerity and frankness, when it was still taboo.

So everyone was fascinated. But we can now say to him: Thank you for your pioneering effort, but to us it is not a new venture, nor a total discovery.

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As a great psychologist I prefer Jung. He was sometimes strange, but there was genius in his madness. He was more a poet and had a larger perception of human nature. In his memoirs Memories , Dreams and Reflections you are often confronted with the mystery of life itself. For example, his mother hatred, so strong that a table breaks itself in two when they are together! A stunning para-psychological episode or a beautiful symbol? Is it because beyond a certain level the male-female dichotomy is irrelevant to you that you have not been interested in feminism?

What has been your relationship to the feminist movement of the last few decades? It does not interest me. I have a horror of such movements, because I think that an intelligent woman is worth an intelligent man—if you can find any—and that a stupid woman is every bit as boring as her male counterpart. Human wickedness is almost equally distributed between the two sexes. I did not want to be published by them—what a name! But of course there are social differences, and geographical ones. The Muslim woman is somewhat more restricted. They get a lot out of their friendships. There was a Moghul princess called Jahanara, the daughter of Sultan Jahan, an admirable poet.

I have found too little information concerning her, but she was initiated to Sufism by her brother, the admirable Prince Dara, assassinated in his thirties by his brother, the fanatic Aurangzarb. So you see even Muslim women could achieve eminence despite their circumstances, if they had it in them. Because Sufism liberates them from the rigid confines of orthodox Islam. She wrote most of her surviving poems with her blood when they opened her veins in a warm bath until she bled to death.

It was a common punishment for heretics then, and Sufis were, on and off, considered heretical. Jahanara was not murdered, but the Sufi master who had initiated her and her brother Dara was finally put to death. Going back to your work, your book Fires is a series of monologues written from the point of view of women.

The impersonal narrator, who writes the small linking sentences, is also evidently a woman, but her reflections on love are genderless. There are three monologues that concern men—Achilles, Petroclus, and Phedros—and with them we are in the world of Alexis. On the other hand Phedre, Antigone, Clytemnestra, Sappho, Lena, are women, ranging from supreme greatness Antigone to vulgarity Clytemnestra.

It is a common complaint that today we have lost the sense of the sacred—even those who have greatly contributed to this state of affairs complain about it! Will you expand on it a bit more, in relation to your work? The sacred is the very essence of life. To be aware of the sacred even as I am holding this glass is therefore essential. I mean this glass has a form, which is very beautiful, and which evokes the great mystery of void and plenitude that has haunted the Chinese for centuries.

Inside, the glass can serve as a receptacle, for ambrosia or poison. What matters to the Taoists is the Void. If we tried to find out how every object around us came into being we would spend our lives doing it. The Villa Marguerite Yourcenar is located at Mont-Noir in the heart of the French Flanders, on the site of the former family property of the writer Marguerite Yourcenar The departmental park and the Villa Marguerite Yourcenar 36 hectares are located in the commune of Saint-Jans-Cappel on the Belgian border, between the towns of Bailleul France, 6km away and with the nearest train station and Ypres Belgium, 15km.

It is about forty kilometres from Lille via the A25 motorway. If you see an error or omission on this page, please let us know by filling out the update form. The remaining years of World War I she passed in Paris with her father, who began her instruction in ancient Greek, or in Provence where her father after suffering serious financial losses, attempted to recover his fortune by gambling at Monte Carlo and elsewhere.

She continued her education with various private tutors and received a Baccalaureate degree in At this point her formal education ended. Between the ages of 19 and 23 she began writing and, with a subsidy from her father, published two books of poems: Equally with the aid of her father she worked out the anagram that became Yourcenar, her pen-name, which became her legal name in She composed several hundred pages of manuscript during her early years, threw most of them away, yet preserved fragments that she would turn into complete books 30 or more years later.

The lucubrations of her youth were seedbeds for her fertile, restless imagination. So were certain events: The s were years of continuous travel. In Italy she witnessed Mussolini's march on Rome. Her knowledge of fascism derived from her acquaintance with Italian life and conversations with Italian intellectuals exiled in Switzerland and southern France.

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For Yourcenar, a republication became the occasion for rewriting her text, so a new edition was frequently a new book. She travelled extensively in Switzerland, Germany, and Eastern Europe where political transformations were having a degrading effect on the classical culture that had formed the basis of her education. She published several articles in prominent reviews deploring the decline of European culture; she also published several short stories, mostly in the classical style. However, her reading now included contemporary authors as well as the theories of socialism and anarchy, with the result that her outlook assumed a leftward orientation.

Politics, however, rarely made up the substance of her compositions. Il Duce had many backers in France. Yourcenar was remarkably prolific, finding time to think, read, and write while travelling extensively in Greece where she wrote the manuscript of Feux, a series of aphorisms and personal impressions on the subject of passion— above all, carnal passion. Back in Paris she made the acquaintance of an American, Grace Frick, who became a life-time friend and the translator of her major novels.

Marguerite Yourcenar

She continued her travels in Europe, returning to the United States when war broke out. She established a residence there for 11 years, meanwhile travelling to Chicago and the Mid-West to lecture and accepting a part-time teaching job at Sarah Lawrence College from to She undertook extensive reading in the libraries of Yale University and other research centers to expand her knowledge of classical antiquity and finally completed the original manuscript of Hadrian's Memoires, first sketched in and published in Her second historical novel, L'Oeuvre au noir , came to dominate the historical novel school in France.

About her family's origins she published Souvenirs pieux and Archives du Nord Her writings represent a form of modern classicism. Her language shows a "favorable inclination toward the soft, fluid French of the century of Versailles that gives to the least word the retarded grace of a dead language. Yourcenar died December 17, , at Mount Desert Island Hospital of complications following a stroke. French premier Jacques Chirac said, "French letters has just lost an exceptional woman.

Criticism and Interpretations The following sources are all in French: Yourcenar, Oeuvres romanesques Gallimard, , which provides a chronology of events in her life; J. Blot, Marguerite Yourcenar Seghers, , a useful biographical portrait; R. Savigneau, Josyane, Marguerite Yourcenar: The University of Chicago Press, Yourcenar, Marguerite, Dear departed, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Retrieved December 16, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Belgium as Marguerite de Crayencour. The first woman elected to the prestigious French Academy , Yourcenar moved to the United States in , became an American citizen in , and spent much of her life on Mount Desert Island, Maine.


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Combining vast erudition with clarity and a classical sense of form, her novelistic reconstructions of historical eras and people have reached a wide audience. Her many works include Memoirs of Hadrian , tr. See biography by J. Savigneau ; studies by P. Horn and G.