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Marguerite Yourcenar

  • All happiness is a form of innocence.

    • Marguerite Yourcenar,
    • Alexis
    • ()
  • This morning it occurred to me for the first time that my body, my faithful companion and friend, truer and better known to me than my own soul, may be after all only a sly beast who will end by devouring his master.

  • Any truth creates a scandal.

  • Morals are a matter of private agreement; decency is of public concern.

  • In the evenings the art of building gave way to that of music, which is architecture, too, though invisible.

  • I think still that someone wiser than I might well have remained happy till his death.

  • Every hour has its immediate duty, its special injunction which dominates all others ...

  • ... every invalid is a prisoner.

  • Let us try, if we can, to enter into death with open eyes ...

  • Men who care passionately for women attach themselves at least as much to the temple and to the accessories of the cult as to their goddess herself.

  • Life is atrocious, we know. But precisely because I expect little of the human condition, man's periods of felicity, his partial progress, his efforts to begin over again and continue, all seem to me like so many prodigies which nearly compensate for the monstrous mass of ills and defeats, of indifference and error. Catastrophe and ruin will come; disorder will triumph, but order will too, from time to time.

  • [On travel:] Who would be so besotted as to die without having made at least the round of this, his prison?

  • ... age means nothing. If anything I feel that I'm still a child: eternity and childhood are my ages.

  • Want of passion is, I think, a very striking characteristic of Americans, not unrelated to their predilection for violence. For very few people truly have a passionate desire to achieve, and violence serves as a kind of substitute.

  • A touch of madness is, I think, almost always necessary for constructing a destiny.

  • For me, a poet is someone who is 'in contact.' Someone through whom a current is passing.

  • No one understands eternity. One simply recognizes its existence.

  • One nourishes one's created characters with one's own substance: it's rather like the process of gestation. To give the character life, or to give him back life, it is of course necessary to fortify him by contributing something of one's own humanity, but it doesn't follow from that that the character is I, the writer, or that I am the character. The two entities remain distinct.

  • There are stages in bread-making quite similar to the stages of writing. You begin with something shapeless, which sticks to your fingers, a kind of paste. Gradually that paste becomes more and more firm. Then there comes a point when it turns rubbery. Finally, you sense that the yeast has begun to do its work: the dough is alive. Then all you have to do is let it rest. But in the case of a book the work may take ten years.

  • I don't think I ever relinquish a person I have known, and surely not my fictional characters. I see them, I hear them, with a clarity that I would call hallucinatory if hallucination didn't mean something else ... A character whom we create can never die, any more than a friend can die ... Through [my characters] I've lived many parallel lives.

  • Every life is punctuated by deaths and departures, and each one causes great suffering that it is better to endure rather than forgo the pleasure of having known the person who has passed away. Somehow our world rebuilds itself after every death, and in any case we know that none of us will last forever. So you might say that life and death lead us by the hand, firmly but tenderly.

  • Ancient and oriental civilizations were more sensitive than we are to the cycles of things; to the succession of generations, both divine and human; and to change within stasis. Western man is virtually alone in wanting to make his God into a fortress and personal immortality into a bulwark against time.

  • The American child, driven to school by bus and stupefied by television, is losing contact with reality. There is an enormous gap between the sheer weight of the textbooks that he carries home from school and his capacity to interpret what is in them.

  • ... the press is too often a distorting mirror, which deforms the people and events it represents, making them seem bigger or smaller than they really are.

  • I believe that friendship, like love, of which it is a particular kind, requires nearly as much art as a successful choreography.

  • To stay in one place and watch the seasons come and go is tantamount to constant travel: one is traveling with the earth.

  • Leaving behind books is even more beautiful — there are far too many children.

    • Marguerite Yourcenar,
    • in The New York Times ()
  • I have never seasoned a truth with the sauce of a lie in order to digest it more easily.

    • Marguerite Yourcenar,
    • in The New York Times ()
  • A young musician plays scales in his room and only bores his family. A beginning writer, on the other hand, sometimes has the misfortune of getting into print.

    • Marguerite Yourcenar,
    • in Time ()
  • He had come to that time in his life (it varies for every man) when a human being gives himself over to his demon or to his genius, according to a mysterious law which orders him either to destroy or to surpass himself.

    • Marguerite Yourcenar

Marguerite Yourcenar, Belgian-born French novelist, poet, critic, classical scholar

(1893 - 1987)

Born: Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour.