Literary Birthday – 8 June – Marguerite Yourcenar

Marguerite Yourcenar was born 8 June 1903 and died 17 December 1987.


  1. 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.
  2. Translating is writing.
  3. Of course one never knows how close fictional characters are to real people. At the beginning of my memoirs I say, ‘L’être que j’appelle moi’—the person I call myself—which means that I don’t know who I am. Does one ever?
  4. The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books, and to a lesser degree schools.
  5. I have never seasoned a truth with the sauce of a lie in order to digest it more easily.
  6. Our great mistake is to try to exact from each person virtues which he does not possess, and to neglect the cultivation of those which he has.
  7. A touch of madness is, I think, almost always necessary for constructing a destiny.
  8. The written word has taught me to listen to the human voice, much as the great unchanging statues have taught me to appreciate bodily motions.
  9. I do not know what being lionised means, and I dislike all literary worlds, because they represent false values.
  10. All happiness is a work of art: the smallest error falsifies it, the slightest hesitation alters it, the least heaviness spoils it, the slightest stupidity brutalises it.
  11. … books are also a way of learning to feel more acutely. Writing is a way of going to the depth of Being.
  12. I write everywhere. I could write here, as I am talking to you. When in Maine or elsewhere, when I am travelling, I write wherever I am or whenever I can. Writing doesn’t require too much energy—it is a relaxation, and a joy.
  13. The mask, given time, comes to be the face itself.
  14. 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.

Marguerite Yourcenar was a Belgian-born French novelist and essayist. She was the first woman elected to the Académie Française, in 1980. She is the author of Memoirs of Hadrian.

Source for Image: By Bernhard De Grendel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 8th June 2014