Photograph of Marguerite Yourcenar with a headscarf sitting in a chair outside.

Marguerite Yourcenar

(1903 - 1987)

Born Marguerite de Crayencour in Belgium in 1903, the novelist, essayist, and short-story writer Marguerite Yourcenar recalled that one of her earliest memories was hearing church bells signaling the start of World War I. She began employing the nearly anagrammatic last name Yourcenar while traveling throughout Europe in the 1920s, and she became a U.S. citizen in 1947, publishing Memoirs of Hadrian in 1951 and The Abyss in 1968. In 1980 Yourcenar became the first woman to be elected to the French Academy, whose number of members is always set at forty. When asked about her influences, she said, “This business of influence is a tricky one. One reads thousands of books, of poets, modern and ancient, as one meets thousands of people. What remains of it all is hard to tell.”

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