Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Memoirs of Hadrian” as Want to Read:
Memoirs of Hadrian
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Memoirs of Hadrian

by
4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  7,686 ratings  ·  581 reviews
Both an exploration of character and a reflection on the meaning of history, Memoirs of Hadrian has received international acclaim since its first publication in France in 1951. In it, Marguerite Yourcenar reimagines the Emperor Hadrian's arduous boyhood, his triumphs and reversals, and finally, as emperor, his gradual reordering of a war-torn world, writing with the imagi ...more
Paperback, 347 pages
Published May 18th 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1951)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
I, Claudius by Robert GravesThe First Man in Rome by Colleen McCulloughClaudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert GravesThe Twelve Caesars by SuetoniusPompeii by Robert   Harris
Best Books About Ancient Rome
15th out of 530 books — 745 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Best Books of the 20th Century
479th out of 6,286 books — 42,193 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Kelly
There is a word that keeps popping up in my reading. I’d go so far as to say that this word is the underlying descriptor for the majority of my favorite books, in some way. The thing is that I can’t tell you exactly what that word is, nor what it means. In Turkish, the word is hüzün, In Korean, it is maybe something close to han, in French perhaps ennui (though I am far from satisfied with that), and in Japanese, mono no aware. None of these words mean quite the same thing, none has the same con ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 07, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeffrey by: knig
”I was beginning to find it natural, if not just, that we must perish. Our literature is nearing exhaustion, our arts are falling asleep; Pancrates is not Homer, nor is Arrian a Xenophon; when I have tried to immortalize Antinous in stone no Praxiteles has come to hand, Our sciences have been at a standstill from the times of Aristotle and Archimedes; our technical development is inadequate to the strain of a long war; our technical development is inadequate to the strain of a long war; even our ...more
Manny
This book is the fruit of one of the most ambitious literary projects I have ever seen. At the age of twenty, Marguerite Yourcenar conceived the idea of writing the life of the Emperor Hadrian. She spent five years on the task, then destroyed the manuscript and all her notes. Over the next decade and a half, she returned to the idea several times, and each time admitted defeat. Finally, in her early 40s, she arrived at a method she could believe in, which she describes as "half history, half mag ...more
Garima
I stepped on deck; the sky, still wholly dark, was truly the iron sky of Homer's poems, indifferent to man's woes and joys alike.

But the man looking at the limitless space above him was not indifferent. He knew the woes of his people and joys of his imperium sine fine. He knew he was both human and supremely divine. Hadrian the Good. Hadrian the ‘Almost Wise’.

I didn’t know much about Hadrian. Only his name along with some cursory details occupied a negligible space of my knowledge bank. I didn
...more
Sarah (Presto agitato)
This is a book that I don’t think I would have read if it weren’t for Goodreads. I probably would never have even heard of it. Technically, I suppose this obscure novel would be considered “historical fiction,” but that’s misleading. It is that, but it is also biography, philosophy, meditation, poetry.

Hadrian was Emperor of Rome from AD 117 to 138. Marguerite Yourcenar wrote this novel in the form of a memoir, written by Hadrian near the end of his life and addressed to then 17-year old future e
...more
Dolors
Mar 21, 2015 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of art and history
Shelves: read-in-2014

Margerite Yourcenar’s Hadrian is not only the Roman Emperor, citizen of the world and deified ruler, whose heart throbbed at the cadence of Greek poetry, whose resilient physique conquered the barbarian borders of northern Britannia, whose strategic mind enforced groundbreaking laws to regulate the use of slaves and to promote culture in the Pantheon, whose modesty silenced insurgent voices and whose excesses intimidated allied ones.

“I have come to think that great men are characterized by the
...more
mark monday
"But books lie, even those that are most sincere. The less adroit, for lack of words and phrases wherein they can enclose life, retain of it but a flat and feeble likeness. Some, like Lucan, make it heavy, and encumber it with a solemnity which it does not possess; others, on the contrary, like Petronius, make life lighter than it is, like a hollow, bouncing ball, easy to toss to and fro in a universe without weight. The poets transport us into a world which is vaster and more beautiful than our ...more
Hadrian
This is something extraordinary. If I was told this was the actual memoirs of the emperor, I would have believed it.

This is a remarkable book, both for the exquisite and well-crafted writing style, but for the depth and solidity of the research, and how multifaceted and fascinating the character of Hadrian is. It seems I have known him all my life, and I wanted to talk to him about his 'grave Aurelius', only to remember that both have long passed.

Recommended for those who love books, and talkin
...more
matt
Gorgeously written, wise and stately. Meditative, deep in a philosophical probing sort of way, moves smoothly and contains a sort of magnificence...the prose is given room to breathe. I have pretty much every reason to believe it's not taking too many liberties with historical accuracy. Yourcenar spent years researching it and getting the details right and it shows.

Her notes on the research and composition at the end are illuminating and tersely eloquent...worth the price of admission in their
...more
Jessica
Dec 18, 2009 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: friends; romans; countrymen
Recommended to Jessica by: paul, ginnie, david g.
This book is not nearly as funny as the similarly titled Diaries of Adrian Mole, so don't get them confused! In fact, this book is not funny at all, which is probably my only serious criticism of it. Other than that, it is pretty fucking great.

Um yeah, so it kind of makes my brain hurt that someone wrote this book. I'll probably write a real review soon, it being so good and all.... In the meantime though -- and in case I die suddenly or see something shiny and get distracted, and don't get arou
...more
Aubrey
An Ode

Hadrian. Born and bred from seventy-six to one-thirty-eight,
Man, Roman, Emperor from one-seventeen to one-thirty-eight,
Fictionalized in historical form from nineteen-twenty-four to nineteen-fifty-one,
By Woman, French, Writer, from nineteen-o’-three to nineteen-eighty-seven
Near two millennia separate life and chronicle, the event from the research
The Empire caked in so much study, so much praise, so much distortion,
So much misuse, so much inheritance of both thought and form.
You are one of
...more
Eric
What are masterpieces? Let us name a few...the Testament of Villon, the Essays of Montaigne, the Fables of La Fontaine, the Maxims of La Rochefoucald and La Bruyère, the Fleurs du Mal and Intimate Journals of Baudelaire...In feeling, these masterpieces contain the maximum of emotion compatible with a classical sense of form. Observe how they are written; many are short and compressed, fruits of reflective and contemplative natures, prose or poetry of great formal beauty and economy of phrase. Th ...more
Paul Bryant
This is one of those books you don't so much read as worship at the shrine of.
Noce
”Veni. Vidi er tempo de oggi, vidi a posta elettronica. Pubblicai le foto de a guera su feisbuc. E vici!”

Mi domando cosa penserebbe Adriano se vedesse lo spot Tim di questi giorni. Non credo ne rimarrebbe stupito. Piuttosto è probabile si siederebbe sotto un ulivo a meditare sulla mutevolezza dell'ironia e dell'esprit du temps. E sorriderebbe.
Diverso sarebbe se lo portassi a vedere cosa succede nelle aule di Montecitorio. Probabilmente avrebbe un déjà-vu. Ma questa è un'altra storia.

Di sicuro, n
...more
Warwick
Near the beginning of this book, in one of its many lyrical and precise descriptive passages, Hadrian writes about his intimations of mortality.

Comme le voyageur qui navigue entre les îles de l'Archipel voit la buée lumineuse se lever vers le soir, et découvre peu à peu la ligne du rivage, je commence à apercevoir le profil de ma mort.

[As the traveller navigating between the islands of the Archipelago sees the luminous mist rise towards the evening, and discovers, little by little, the line of
...more
knig
‘Just when the Gods had ceased to be and the Christ had not yet come, there was a unique moment in history, between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, when man stood alone’ Flaubert to La Sylphide.

This then is the Weltanschauung Yourcenar pays encomium to, panegyrically oded in Memoirs, yet tempered with subdued ‘pragnanz’: Hadrian’s bios is nothing if not temporal Dukkha extrapolated through the measured cadence of a praxeological study of human actions and their consequences, a teological affirmation
...more
Algernon

Life is atrocious, we know. But precisely because I expect little of the human condition, man's periods of felicity, his partial progress, his efforts to begin over again and to continue, all seem to me like so many prodigies which nearly compensate for the monstrous mass of ills and defeats, of indifference and error. Catastrophe and ruin will come; disorder will triumph, but order will too, from time to time. Peace will again establish itself between two periods of war; the words humanity, li
...more
Tony
In 2009, Hugo Chavez, in an impromptu meeting with Barack Obama, handed the newly-elected American President a copy of The Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano. Chavez wanted Obama to learn from Literature of the exploitation of Latin America. He had hope the young President would be open-minded, and a reader. Obama’s advisers quickly and glibly disabused the hopeful by saying the book was in Spanish, a language the President didn’t know. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009...

It’s do
...more
Stephen P

After the deprivations of the soldierly life unexpectedly he is named emperor of Rome. Rather than fame, fortune he not only is provided with vast power but the power to carry out his dreams. By enduring and surviving battles he has seen how this ever expanding domain can be run to its benefits and the benefits of his people. Without the suffocation of ego, the need to be seen and validated through the eyes of others he can execute his plans. Rome is to shift from expansion, to the protection of
...more
AC
Truly an astonishing book, as those here (many) who have read it already know. It has nothing in common with the genre of so-called "historical fiction" (which misconception kept me from having even the remotest interest in this book for years). All I can add is the observation that her scholarship is really outstanding -- even apart from her novelistic skills. It just feels so real that it's hard to fathom how she did it.

This refers not only to her knowledge of history (in the broad sense), an
...more
David
Jul 03, 2007 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: top-20, 5q
This is an unlikely candidate to be on my all-time list of the 5 best books I've ever read. But it is. An "autobiographical" account of a long-dead Roman emperor (not even one of the glamorous, or truly filthy ones), written by a 20th century Frenchwoman - who'd have thunk it?

And yet, I beg, I implore you - if you haven't already - buy, steal, or scrounge a copy of this book. It will draw you in. Can't promise it will change your life. All I know is that I find myself re-reading it every two or
...more
Jasmine
"Just when the gods had ceased to be, and the Christ had not yet come, there was a unique moment in history, between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, when man stood alone.” (Gustave Flaubert).

Gustave Flaubert’s quote is to some extent the catalyst for Marguerite Yourcenar’s relationship with Hadrian, the Roman emperor who lived from 76 AD to 138 AD – a man she comes to know better than her own father: ‘The facts of my father’s life are less known to me than those of the life of Hadrian.’ (quotes in i
...more
Lotz
I offer you here, in guise of corrective, a recital stripped of preconceived ideas and of mere abstract principles; it is drawn wholly from the experience of one man, who is myself.

While perhaps not the best, Memoirs of Hadrian has the distinction of being the most well-researched novel I’ve ever read. In fact, so much research went into this book that it seems a bit disingenuous to even call it a novel; what is novelistic about it has little to do with fiction—so tenaciously does the thread o
...more
Vale
30 giorni.

Questo è il tempo che mi è occorso per scrivere una recensione sul libro Memorie di Adriano.
Sembra proprio la dimensione del tempo, quella che permea quest'opera: acquistai il libro molti anni fa, ma ne ebbi sempre timore. Impiegai più tempo del previsto per leggerlo e mi accingo solo ora a buttare giù qualche pensiero.
Perché, questo, non è un libro che si può leggere e poi riporre, bensì è un libro da vivere e contiene quantità di pensieri che cambiano il tuo concetto di vita. Queste
...more
James
In 1951 Jules Romains, commenting on the most recent work by Marguerite Yourcenar, said that she had a writing style "of near constant perfection and felicity". He was referring to her novel, Memoirs of Hadrian, and more than fifty years later all I can do is concur and add a few more superlatives to describe my reaction to Yourcenar's novel. This is an unique historical novel in the form of a memoir. It is the story of the traditions of Rome and how a great man - an historical figure and superi ...more
Erwin
A truly remarkable piece of work! Written so well, it is almost as if 'his' words are addressed to me, the reader, being Hadrian's most trusted friend. A true work of art!
Jorge
No podía irme sin haber leído esta majestuosa obra de Marguerite Yourcenar. Un bellísimo y épico relato biográfico, escrito como una larga carta del emperador romano Adriano dirigida a su sucesor Marco Aurelio. Prosa penetrante y sobrecogedora que desborda por momentos mi sensibilidad; gloria entre las glorias de la literatura occidental del siglo XX, cuya génesis se remonta al año 1924 y que no vio la luz sino hasta el mediodía del siglo XX.

Sin duda este relato epistolar está llamado a ser una
...more
James
Memoirs of Hadrian is a fictional autobiography written in the form of a long letter to the young Marcus Aurelius, the adopted grandson of the emperor Hadrian and the intended audience for his personal reflections on his rise to power and subsequent management of the Roman Empire. Intermingled throughout are many acute observations on the nature of government and human psychology as well as a variety of extended ontological ruminations on the general esteem owed to the transcendent. The picture ...more
Jon Boorstin
This might be the best book about a lost age that I've ever read. Ms. Yourcenar has a superb affinity for her subject, and she knows the world intimately. She captures not only the subtle textures of the past, but the dense compression of thought that we all live, but rarely see on the page. I lived inside this complex man, moving through a universe I'd never experienced, but believed absolutely.
Stela

Umberto Eco affirmait quelque part que la principale fonction de la littérature ne serait pas celle esthétique, mais – ontologique, vu qu’en dépit des jeux de la hypertextualité elle reste unchangeable, non modifiable, ainsi nous enseignant sur le destin et la mort.

Dans un premier temps, il m’a semblé que cette fonction s’applique également à l’histoire, dont le sort des héros est aussi immutable que celui de Madame Bovary, par exemple. Maintenant je ne suis plus si sûre. Hadrien est à la fois
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Books you loved in the past and cannot understand why today 2 61 Aug 28, 2014 08:08AM  
Pre-Reading Opinion 13 119 Apr 16, 2014 11:32AM  
Knjigom u glavu: Hadrijanovi memoari 11 104 Feb 16, 2014 03:37AM  
Cocaine Pages: November 2012 - Historical Fiction - Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar 8 34 Nov 12, 2012 03:31AM  
  • History
  • The Blue Flowers
  • The Recognition of 'Sakuntala: A Play in Seven Acts
  • Julian
  • Augustus
  • Canti
  • بوستان سعدی
  • The Opposing Shore
  • Jacques the Fatalist
  • Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome
  • The Last of the Wine
  • Grande Sertão: Veredas
  • The Ides of March
  • Njal's Saga
  • Salammbô
  • Romancero gitano
  • The Ogre
  • Diary of a Madman and Other Stories
7732
Yourcenar was born Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour in Brussels, Belgium to Michel Cleenewerck de Crayencour, of French aristocratic descent, and a Belgian mother who died ten days after her birth. She grew up in the home of her paternal grandmother.

Yourcenar's first novel, Alexis, was published in 1929. Her intimate companion at the time, a translator named G
...more
More about Marguerite Yourcenar...
L'œuvre au noir Oriental Tales Coup de Grace Alexis ou le Traité du vain combat / Le Coup de grâce Fires

Share This Book

“The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books, and to a lesser degree schools.” 77 likes
“Our great mistake is to try to exact from each person virtues which he does not possess, and to neglect the cultivation of those which he has.” 71 likes
More quotes…