Marguerite Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour

Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour

Belgian-born French Novelist and Essayist

Author Quotes

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.

Little soul, gentle and drifting, guest and companion of my body, now you will dwell below in pallid places, stark and bare; there you will abandon your play of yore. But one moment still, let us gaze together on these familiar shores, on these objects which doubtless we shall not see again... Let us try, if we can, to enter into death with open eyes.

The unfortunate thing is that, because wishes sometimes come true, the agony of hoping is perpetuated.

Few bipeds, from Adam's time down, have been worthy of the name of man.

Meditation upon death does not teach one how to die; it does not make the departure more easy, but ease is not what I seek. Beloved boy, so willful and brooding, your sacrifice will have enriched not my life but my death? Centuries as yet unborn within the dark womb of time would pass by thousands over that tomb without restoring life to him, but likewise without adding to his death, and without changing the fact that he had been.

The world is big? May it please the One who perchance is to expand the human heart to life?s full measure.

A being afire with life cannot foresee death; in fact, by each of his deeds he denies that death exists.

He didn?t feel himself to be, as so many people do, a man as opposed to beasts and trees; rather, a brother of one and a distant cousin of the other. Nor did he particularly consider himself male in contrast with the gentler order of women; he had passionately possessed certain women, but, out of bed, his cares, his needs, his constraints of money, sickness, and the daily tasks one performs to live hadn?t seemed to him so different from theirs. He had, rarely it is true, known the carnal brotherhood other men had shared with him; he didn?t feel less a man for that. People falsify everything, it seemed to him, in taking such little account of the flexibility and resources of the human being, so like the plant, which seeks out the sun or water and nourishes itself fairly well from whatever earth and wind has sown it in. Custom more than nature seemed to him to dictate the differences we set up between classes of men, the habits and knowledge acquired from infancy, or the various ways of praying to what is called God. Ages, sexes, or even species seemed to him closer one to another than each generally assumed about the other: child or old man, man or woman, animal or biped who speaks the works with his hands, all come together in the misery and sweetness of existence.

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.

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.

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