Marguerite Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour

Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour

Belgian-born French Novelist and Essayist

Author Quotes

Any law too often subject to infraction is bad; it is the duty of the legislator to repeal or change it.

I have no desire to mention here a small fact that is supposedly obscene, but what follows corroborates in advance the opinion I hold today on that so highly controversial subject of the awakening of the senses, our future tyrants. Lying that night in Yolande?s narrow bed, the only one available to us, an instinct, a premonition of intermittent desires experienced and satisfied later in the course of my life, allowed me to discover right away the posture and the movements needed by two women who love one another. Proust talked about the heart?s intermittencies. Who will talk about those of the senses, particularly about those desires that the ignorant assume to be either so thoroughly against nature as to be always artificially acquired or else, on the contrary, inscribed in the flesh of certain persons like a nefarious and permanent fate? My own would not really awaken until years later, then in turn, and for years at a time, disappear to the point of being forgotten. Though a bit callous, Yolande admonished me kindly: I?ve been told it was bad to do those things. Really? I said. And turning away without protest, I stretched out and fell asleep on the edge of the bed

Our civil laws will never be supple enough to fit the immense and changing variety of facts. Laws change more slowly than custom, and though dangerous when they fall behind the times are more dangerous still when they presume to anticipate custom.

We say: mad with joy. We should say: wise with grief.

Any truth creates a scandal.

I knew that good like bad becomes a routine, that the temporary tends to endure, that what is external permeates to the inside, and that the mask, given time, comes to be the face itself.

Our defects are sometimes the better adversaries when we oppose our vices.

When two texts, or two assertions, perhaps two ideas, are in contradiction, be ready to reconcile them rather than cancel one by the other; regard them as two different facets, or two successive stages, of the same reality, a reality convincingly human just because it is too complex.

Beyond this village, other villages; beyond this abbey, other abbeys; and after the fortress, more fortresses still. And each of these castles of stone and each wooden hut has its structure of fixed ideas or flimsy, ill-based opinions superposed above it within which fools stay immured, but the wise find apertures for escape.

If you love life you also love the past, because it is the present as it has survived in memory.

Passion satisfied has its innocence, almost as fragile as any other.

Who would be so besotted as to die without having made at least the round of this, his prison?

But even the longest dedication is too short and too commonplace to honor a friendship so uncommon. When I try to define this asset which has been mine now for years, I tell myself that such a privilege, however rare it may be, is surely not unique; that in the whole adventure of bringing a book successfully to its conclusion, or even in the entire life of some fortunate writers, there must have been sometimes, in the background, perhaps, someone who will not let pass the weak or inaccurate sentence which we ourselves would retain, out of fatigue; someone who would re-read with us for the twentieth time, if need be, a questionable page; someone who takes down for us from the library shelves the heavy tomes in which we may find a helpful suggestion, and who persists in continuing to peruse them long after weariness has made us give up; someone who bolsters our courage and approves, or sometimes disputes, our ideas; who shares with us, and with equal fervor, the joys of art and of living, the endless work which both require, never easy but never dull; someone who is neither our shadow nor our reflection, nor even our complement, but simply himself; someone who leaves us ideally free, but who nevertheless obliges us to be fully what we are. Hospes Comesque.

In alchemical treatises, the formula L'Oeuvre au Noir, designates what is said to be the most difficult phase of the alchemist's process, the separation and dissolution of substance. It is still not clear whether the term applied to daring experiments on matter itself, or whether it was understood to symbolize trials of the mind in discarding all forms of routine and prejudice. Doubtless it signified one or the other meaning alternately, or perhaps both at the same time.

Passion such as hers is all consent, asking little in return. I had merely to enter a room where she was to see her face take on that peaceful expression of one who is resting in bed. If I touched her, I had the impression that all the blood in her veins was turning to honey.

Do not mistake me. I am not yet weak enough to yield to fearful imaginings, which are almost as absurd as illusions of hope, and are certainly harder to bear. If I must deceive myself, I should prefer to stay on the side of confidence, for I shall lose no more there and shall suffer less.

It is not difficult to nourish admirable thoughts when the stars are present.

The memory of most men is an abandoned cemetery where lie, unsung and un-honored, the dead whom they have ceased to cherish. Any lasting grief is reproof to their forgetfulness.

Every bliss achieved is a masterpiece: the slightest error turns it awry, and it alters with one touch of doubt; any heaviness detracts from its charm, the least stupidity renders it dull.

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

The skirmishes with the theologians had had their charm, but he knew well that no lasting accord exists between those who seek, ponder, and dissect and pride themselves on being capable of thinking tomorrow other than they do today, and those who accept the Faith, or declare that they do, and oblige their fellow men to do the same, on pain of death.

Every invalid is a prisoner.

Leisure moments: each life well regulated has some such intervals, and he who cannot make way for them does not know how to live.

The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books.

Every silence is composed of nothing but unspoken words. Perhaps that is why I became a musician. Someone had to express this silence, make it render up all the sadness it contained, make it sing as it were. Someone had to use not words, which are always too precise not to be cruel, but simply music.

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Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour
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Belgian-born French Novelist and Essayist