Marguerite Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour

Yourcenar, pseudonym for Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour

Belgian-born French Novelist and Essayist

Author Quotes

A touch of madness is, I think, almost always necessary for constructing a destiny.

Human beings betray their worst failings when they marvel to find that a world ruler is neither foolishly indolent, presumptuous, nor cruel.

Nothing is slower than the true birth of a man.

This book bears no dedication. It ought to have been dedicated to G.F...[Grace Frick], and would have been, were there not a kind of impropriety in putting a personal inscription at the opening of a work where, precisely, I was trying to efface the personal. 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 20th 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 share 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

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.

I have come to think that great men are characterized precisely by the extreme position which they take, and that their heroism consists in holding to that extremity throughout their lives.

Of all our games, love's play is the only one which threatens to unsettle the soul, and is also the only one in which the player has to abandon himself to the body's ecstasy.

This city belongs to ghosts, to murderers, to sleepwalkers. Where are you, in what bed, in what dream?

All would have transformed us if we had the courage to be what we are.

I have given you, O Adam, no fixed abode, and no visage of your own, nor any special gift, in order that whatever place or aspect or talents you yourself will have desired, you may have and possess them wholly in accord with your desire and your own decision. Other species are confined to a prescribed nature, under laws of my making. No limits have been imposed upon you, however; you determine your nature by you own free will, in the hands of which I have placed you. I have placed you at the world?s very center, that you may the better behold from this point whatever is in the world. And I have made you neither celestial nor terrestrial, neither mortal nor immortal, so that, like a free and able sculptor and painter of yourself, you may mold yourself wholly in the form of your choice

One must not fear the words anymore when one consented to the things.

To have merit to abstain from a fault is a manner to be guilty.

And nevertheless I have loved certain of my masters, and those strangely intimate though elusive relations existing between student and teacher, and the Sirens singing somewhere within the cracked voice of him who is first to reveal a new idea. The greatest seducer was not Alcibiades, afterall, it was Socrates.

I have never seasoned a truth with the sauce of a lie in order to digest it more easily.

One night (I was eleven years old at the time) he came and shook me from my sleep and announced, with the same grumbling laconism that he would have employed to predict a good harvest to his tenants, that I should rule the world.

We believe ourselves pure as long as we despise what we do not desire.

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.

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