Marguerite Yourcenar

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Marguerite Yourcenar in October 1982

Marguerite Yourcenar (born June 8, 1903 as Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour in Brussels , † December 17, 1987 in Northeast Harbor , Maine ) was a French writer . In 1947 she became a citizen of the USA. She was awarded the Prix ​​Femina and the Erasmus Prize and was the first woman to be admitted to the Académie française .

Origin and life

Coat of arms of the Cleenewerck de Crayencour family

Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour was born as the daughter of Michel Cleenewerck de Crayencour, born in Bailleul in French Flanders , and his second wife Fernande, née. de Cartier de Marchienne born. The father's family was of upper-class origin and had acquired the Crayencour fief near Terdeghem in the 18th century , as well as in 1851 through the marriage of Marguerite's grandfather Michel Charles Cleenewerck de Crayencour (1822-1886) to the wealthy heiress Noémi Dufresne (1828-1909) ) a large complex of goods around the Château du Mont-Noir in Saint-Jans-Cappel , built in 1824 . The mother came from the Belgian nobility , in which Marguerite's older half-brother Michel Cleenewerck de Crayencour (1885-1966) was accepted as a chevalier in 1925 .

The mother died in childbed, which is why Marguerite was raised by her grandmother Noémi. In winter they lived in the Hôtel particulier of the Dufresne family in Lille and in summer at the Château du Mont-Noir . In the early years, the deceased mother's best friend and former classmate, Jeanne de Vietinghoff , also acted as a kind of godmother from afar. A writer herself, she became Yourcenar's role model. "Your mother ... has become a legend for me, a legend that influenced my life," she wrote in 1983 to her son Egon von Vietinghoff . In 1913 the father sold the family castle and went on extensive trips through Europe, with the daughter often accompanying him. She also came to be brought up in French-speaking families in Brussels and began writing as a teenager. Her father married a third time in Monaco in 1926 and died in 1929. After that, like this one, she led a nomadic life and was traveling almost constantly until the outbreak of World War II . Later on she also traveled through Europe, Asia and Africa into old age.

The young writer, who chose an anagram of her family name Crayencour as nom de plume , first attracted attention , in 1929 with Alexis or the vain fight , modeled on André Gide . It is the written confession of a renowned musician who confesses his homosexuality to his wife and, wrestling with the need for truth, separates from her. The figure of Monique is inspired by her godmother Jeanne de Vietinghoff, with whom the father Crayencour fell in love, and the figure of the first-person narrator by her husband, the pianist Conrad von Vietinghoff . As in several of her following works, in which the general themes of the Vietinghoffs are varied, she shows herself in concise language as a master of the interweaving of “ poetry and truth ” as well as the associative game of confusion and hide-and-seek. In her biography Josyane Savigneau writes: “How much of this mess is intentional?” ... “She was only really interested in her life that could provide a pretext for literary transformation.” She fell in love with her editor André Fraigneau (1905 -1991), who was homosexual and she rejected what she processed in her prose poem Feux , published in 1935, and made her confess her own lesbian inclination. In 1937 she met Grace Frick, an American professor with whom she lived until her death in 1979. Frick helped the poet, who was prone to depression and hypochondria, both mentally and financially during the Second World War, and translated her work into English.

In 1936 she published the prose poem Feuer , followed in 1939 by the novel The Catch Shot . With the outbreak of the war she settled in the USA , in 1947 she was granted US citizenship . From 1942 to 1953 she taught comparative and French literary studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She wrote the novel I tamed the she-wolf mainly from 1924–1927, 1934–1939 and, after losing parts of the manuscript, again in the years 1948–1950, during which she undertook historical research. With this fictional autobiography of the Roman emperor Hadrian , finally published in 1951, she achieved her international breakthrough. She received the Prix ​​Femina for this book, of which almost a million copies had been sold by 1989 . In 1968 the novel The Black Flame followed .

In addition to her own novels, essays, plays and articles, Marguerite Yourcenar has published translations of novels, gospels and children's stories from India from English and ancient Greek poems into French. Marguerite Yourcenar was a vegetarian and campaigned against the seal hunt . In 1968, with a letter to Brigitte Bardot, she managed to win her over for the very successful campaign against the seal hunt in Canada.

Honors and memorials

Yourcenar has received many awards and honors. In 1970 she was admitted to the Royal Academy of French Language and Literature of Belgium. On March 4, 1980, she was the first woman to be elected to the renowned Académie française . In 1982 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1987 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In 1983 she also received the Erasmus Prize , which was endowed with 100,000 Dutch guilders, and a total of three honorary doctorates , including that of Harvard University . Her work has been translated into many languages. There are some Yourcenar biographies with translations into other languages, a wealth of individual articles on various aspects of her work and life, as well as several research institutes in Europe and the USA that deal with her and her work. In December 1996 the asteroid (7020) Yourcenar was named after her. She is the namesake of the Prix ​​Marguerite-Yourcenar , which has existed since 2015 and is awarded annually by the Société civile des auteurs multimédia (Scam) and is endowed with € 8,000. The winners include Hélène Cixous (2016), 2017 Annie Ernaux and Jean Echenoz .

On the site of the writer's parents' house, the Château du Mont-Noir in Saint-Jans-Cappel , which had been destroyed in the First World War , the industrialist Henri Coisne Dansette had built a villa in the neo-Norman style from 1930 onwards, which was acquired by the Conseil départemental du Nord and Established in 1997 as the "Center de résidence d'écrivains européens" (Center for European Writers) under the name Villa Marguerite-Yourcenar . In 1985, with the participation of the poet, the Musée Marguerite-Yourcenar with documents and memorabilia was established in the center of the village . In Paris, a library, the Médiathèque Marguerite-Yourcenar , was named after her. A memorial stele was erected for her in the courtyard of the Château Bilquin-de Cartier in Marchienne-au-Pont , where her mother was born, and in front of the Saint-Vaast church in her family's home in Bailleul . On June 8th, 2020, for its 117th birthday, Yourcenar was honored with a Google Doodle .

Comments on Marguerite Yourcenar

"Marguerite Yourcenar's genius lies without question in the ability to transform every individual life story into fate."

“The fact that she never went to school saved her a lot. What girls have to do or not do, that played no role in their lives. "


  • Le Jardin des Chimères , Paris 1921.
  • Les Dieux ne sont pas morts , Paris 1922.
  • Alexis ou le Traité du vain combat , Paris 1929.
  • La Nouvelle Eurydice , Paris 1931.
  • Pindare , Paris 1932.
  • Denier du rêve , Paris 1934, revised 1958–59.
  • La Mort conduit l'attelage , Paris 1933.
  • Feux , Paris 1936.
  • Nouvelles orientales , Paris 1938 (revised and expanded new edition 1978).
    • Oriental stories , German by Anneliese Botond, Frankfurt, Insel, 1964 (the new edition in German by Anneliese Botond and Gerda Keller, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 978-3-518-01985-6 .
  • Les Songes et les Sorts , Paris 1938.
  • Le Coup de grace , Paris 1939.
  • Mémoires d'Hadrien , Paris 1951.
    • I tamed the she-wolf. The memories of the Emperor Hadrian , German by Fritz Jaffé, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1953, ISBN 978-3-421-06305-2 (edition from 1990).
  • Électre ou la Chute des masques , Paris 1954.
  • Les Charités d'Alcippe , Liège 1956.
  • Présentation critique de Constantin Cavafy 1863–1933 , Paris 1958.
  • Sous bénéfice d'inventaire , Paris 1962.
  • Fleuve profond, sombre rivière. Les “Negro Spirituals” , Paris 1964.
  • L'Œuvre au noir , Paris 1968 (awarded the Prix Femina 1968).
    • The black flame , German by Anneliese Hager, René Cheval and Bettina Witsch, Hanser, Munich 1991, ISBN 978-3-446-14088-2 .
  • Théâtre I , Paris 1971.
  • Le Labyrinthe du monde I. Souvenirs pieux , Monaco 1973.
    • Memorial pictures. A family story, German by Rolf and Hedda Soellner, Hanser, Munich 1984, ISBN 978-3-446-13913-8 .
  • Le Labyrinthe du monde II. Archives du Nord , Paris 1977.
    • Sources of life. A family story, German by Rolf and Hedda Soellner, Hanser, Munich 1985, ISBN 978-3-446-13914-5 .
  • La Couronne et la Lyre. Poèmes traduits du grec , Paris 1979.
  • Mishima ou la vision du vide , Paris 1980.
    • Mishima or the vision of emptiness , German by Hans-Horst Henschen, Hanser, Munich 1985, ISBN 978-3-446-13916-9 .
  • Anna, soror ... , Paris 1981.
  • Comme l'eau qui coule , Paris 1982.
  • Le temps, ce grand sculpteur , Paris 1983.
    • The time, the great artist. Essays on myths, history and literature , in German by Rolf and Hedda Soellner, Hanser, Munich 1998, ISBN 978-3-446-14297-8 .
  • Le labyrinthe du monde III. Quoi? L'Éternité. Paris 1988.


  • Michèle Goslar: Yourcenar. Biography. “Qu'il eût été fade d'être heureux”. Racine, Brussels 1998, ISBN 2-87386-143-6 .
  • Dietrich Gronau: Marguerite Yourcenar. Wanderin in the labyrinth of the world. Heyne, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-453-06079-2 .
  • Georges Rousseau: Yourcenar. House Publishing, London 2004, ISBN 1-904341-28-4 .
  • Michèle Sarde: Vous, Marguerite Yourcenar. La Passion et ses masques. Laffont, Paris 1995, ISBN 2-221-05930-1 .
  • Maurice Delcroix (Ed.): Marguerite Yourcenar. Portrait d'une voix. Gallimard, Paris 2002, ISBN 2-07-075675-0 .
    • From this in German: Jean-Pierre Corteggiani: “Basically there is no more advice”. Conversation with Marguerite Yourcenar (1987). In: Sinn und Form 1/2012, pp. 19–32.
  • Josyane Savigneau: Marguerite Yourcenar, l'invention d'une vie. Gallimard, Paris 1993, ISBN 2-07-038738-0 .
    • Josyane Savigneau: Marguerite Yourcenar. The invention of a life. Translated from the French by Rolf Soellner. Dtv, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-423-13085-7 .

Web links

Commons : Marguerite Yourcenar  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Especially in The Fang Shot , Anna, soror ... , I tamed the she-wolf and in love runs
  3. ^ Notes and comments on the novel
  4. Review
  6. Chantai Nadeau: Fur nation: from the beaver to Brigitte Bardot, Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0-415-15874-5
  7. ^ Marguerite Yourcenar. In: Académie française. Retrieved January 18, 2020 .
  8. ^ Members: Marguerite Yourcenar. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed May 5, 2019 .
  9. Annie Ernaux. Prize winner of the Prix Marguerite-Yourcenar 2017 on December 4, 2017
  10. ^ 117th birthday of Marguerite Yourcenar. June 8, 2020, accessed on August 22, 2020 .
  11. Ina Hartwig, “The absolute freedom of the senses”, in her volume of essays: The secret compartment is open. About literature . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-10-029103-5 , pp. 194-205.