Marguerite Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour

Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour

Belgian-born French Novelist and Essayist

Author Quotes

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.

A book may lie dormant for fifty years or for two thousand years in a forgotten corner of a library, only to reveal, upon being opened, the marvels or the abysses that it contains, or the line that seems to have been written for me alone. In this respect the writer is not different from any other human being: whatever we say or do can have far-reaching consequences.

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.

More sincere than most men, I can freely admit the secret causes of this felicity: that calm so propitious for work and for discipline of the mind seems to me one the richest results of love. An it puzzles me that these joys, so precarious at best, and so rarely perfect in the course of human life, however we may have sought or received them, should be regarded with such mistrust by the so-called wise, who denounce the danger of habit and excess in sensuous delight, instead of fearing its absence or its loss

There are books which one should not attempt before having passed the age of forty.

A human life cannot be graphed whatever people may say, by two virtual perpendiculars, representing what a man believed himself to be and what he wished to be, plus a flat horizontal for what he actually was; rather, the diagram has to be composed of three curving lines, extended to infinity, ever meeting and ever diverging.

He had reached that moment in life, different for each one of us, when a man abandons himself to his demon or to his genius, following a mysterious law which bids him either to destroy or outdo himself.

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