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Memoirs of Hadrian

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4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  11,283 Ratings  ·  863 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)
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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
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
Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 27, 2012 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jeffrey by: knig
Shelves: roman
”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
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
Dolors
Nov 15, 2014 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of art and history

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
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
mark monday
Sep 15, 2013 mark monday rated it it was amazing
"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
Garima
Dec 27, 2013 Garima rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
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
Henry Avila
Aug 25, 2015 Henry Avila rated it it was amazing
Through the mists of time, the clouds lift (but only partly, always remain overcast ), they never give up their deep secrets and the myths will continue, such is history, such was the Roman Emperor Hadrian, of the second century, no Julius Caesar , but who was? Sill a very capable man, born in Italica, what is now Spain, to a Roman family of landowners, and Senators, they had left Italy centuries before, and prospered. His cousin, Emperor Trajan, many years his senior, later, adopts the young ma ...more
Paul
Nov 22, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing
This ought not to work on a number of levels and ought not to be as good as it is. A historical novel about the Romans (there is so much temptation to go into Life of Brian mode at this point), indeed about one of their emperors. Hadrian dominated Marguerite Yourcenar’s life for many years with rewrites, abandonments, acres of notes and thoughts, and an immense amount of research (including travel to places Hadrian had been). The novel is in the form of a letter from Hadrian to his adopted grand ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to_reread, novels
This is one of those books you don't so much read as worship at the shrine of.
Sidharth Vardhan

“But books lie, even those that are most sincere.”

It is supposed to be historically most accurate novel - I can’t judge about that but I’m willing to take the word of knowledgeable people on that. What is so far more incredible is the way the author managed to make herself invisible in her work – you know how novels have their authors’ personality in them. You can’t normally come out of a novel without having some idea of author’s personality. Narrators of Proust and Celine look like so much l
...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
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
Margitte
The statue of Hadrian, the 14th Emperor of the Roman Empire, was brought alive by the French author Marguerite Yourcenar in this novel. She climbed into his thoughts, philosophies and personality and wrote his memoir for him. Hadrian was never a conqueror, but rather a strong leader who brought controversial changes to the Roman laws which made life more bearable and humane for the vast empire.

By allowing Hadrian to be the protagonist of his own letter to Marcus Aurelius, the long forgotten man
...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
Jessica
Nov 24, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  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
Warwick
Dec 20, 2012 Warwick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 t
...more
Carmo
Aug 25, 2014 Carmo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos, bélgica
Memórias de Adriano é uma ficção histórica em registo epistolar – um género que me é muito caro pela proximidade que estabelece com o leitor. Para quem lê, é como se aquela carta, aqueles segredos, aquela intimidade nos fosse dirigida, a nós em particular.
Marguerite Yourcenar planeou e escreveu este livro entre 1924 e 1929. Quando terminou queimou tudo. Tinha na altura 25 anos.
Voltou à obra em 1934 com avanços e recuos até 1939 altura em que o abandona novamente, só recomeçando em 1948. Durante
...more
Pantelis
Oct 03, 2016 Pantelis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A modern classic in the full sense of the term... A beautiful and wise book... It demonstrates that an intellectual can also be a sensualist, must also be a sensualist.... Such books inspire us to live our lives the way a philosopher king would rule his kingdom...
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
Noce
Oct 16, 2011 Noce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”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
Tony
Jun 17, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, top-10-2013
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
knig
Aug 28, 2012 knig rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites, 2012
‘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
Marita
Exquisite writing, which is beautifully translated and very nicely illustrated. I also loved the author's 'Reflections on the Composition of Memoirs of Hadrian' at the end of the book.

Highly recommended.
Algernon
Sep 09, 2014 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

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
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
Mar 24, 2012 AC rated it it was amazing
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
Zanna
May 16, 2014 Zanna rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Zanna by: Garima
Well I am outraged. How is it that I was enticed, indeed tricked into reading this book?

I read to decolonise my mind. Who is Hadrian? Hadrian is the arch colonist, one whose belief in the glory of empire is totally unclouded and unshakeable, Emperor of Rome itself. I read to amend the faults of my education in its neglect of racialised 'others', gender outlaws, the materially deprived, all women and whoever else has been mis or under or not represented, in other words the black brown queer trans
...more
David
Jul 03, 2007 David rated it it was amazing
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
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The first woman to be elected to The French Academy, the multi talented personality of Marguerite Yourcenar was a novelist, essayist, playwright, short story writer, poet and translator. She was an artist at reconstructing historical eras in the form of her novels. Her novels, dealing with modern issues set in historical eras won her immense fame as a writer.

The inheritance Yourcenar received afte
...more
More about Marguerite Yourcenar...

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“Of all our games, love's play is the only one which threatens to unsettle the soul...” 829 likes
“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.” 118 likes
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