Mes premières patries ont été des livres

Franco-Belgian writer Marguerite Yourcenar was born on June 8, 1903. Her real name was Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislane de Crayencour. She invented Yourcenar as a pen-name an anagram from her family name. Her mother died mere days after Marguerite’s birth. She was raised by her paternal grandparents but spent a lot of time traveling in style with her feckless, gambling father. Her life experiences gave her plenty of material to write about. She started writing as a teen and the money she inherited from her father gave her the financial wherewithal to continue. With the outbreak of World War II, she moved to the United States where she became a lecturer in comparative literature at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

The image of French novelist Marguerite Yource...

In the post-war years, she shuttled between the States and France. Her most important work was Mémoires d’Hadrian, published in 1951. It’s a complex historical novel of the Roman Emperor through a letter to Marcus Aurelius, as he reflects back on his life on the evening before his death. One of the famous lines from that book is “mes premières patries ont été des livres” (may prem-ee-air patree zont aytay day leevruh), which means “my first homelands have been books.” Yourcenar was the first female ever to be elected to the Académie Française in 1980. She wrote almost 30 works that dealt with the conflicting demands of society and individual desires. In 1983, she won the Erasmus prize for her contributions to European literature.  She died in her home in Maine on December 17, 1987.

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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2 Responses to Mes premières patries ont été des livres

  1. Anonymous says:

    Are you sure Marguerite Yourcenar’s family name came from nobility ? In Belgium and North of France “De” just means “The” or “From”. (like, in France, Roger Martin du Gard, Deutsch de la Meurthe or even Charles de Gaulle, which was normally written De Gaulle for that reason). That being said, when somebody writes the “Memoirs of Hadrian”, nobility IS clearly deserved ! 🙂

    • According to the research I did, her Belgian mother, Fernande de Cartier de Marchienne, was of Belgian nobility, while her father’s family was very wealthy, but middle-class.

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