MEMOIRS OF HADRIAN EBOOK
Framed as a letter from the Roman Emperor Hadrian to his successor, Marcus Aurelius, Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian is. Memoirs of Hadrian by salelive.info (Series). Bright Summaries Author (). cover image of Mémoires d'Hadrien de Marguerite Yourcenar. Read "Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (Book Analysis) Detailed Summary, Analysis and Reading Guide" by Bright Summaries available from.
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Aug 25, 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 man, sen 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?
His cousin Emperor Trajan, many years his senior, later adopts the young man, sent to Rome for an education by his family at 12, with a trusted guardian, the father had just expired at The future ruler shows promise, studies hard and does well The tough old soldier Emperor, more comfortable leading his conquering army, than playing the politician in the capital, it would be the same for Hadrian. A crisis appears the dying, feeble ruler is in no hurry to officially name his successor maybe this will insure his demise , too busy planning and fighting a war in faraway Mesopotamia and dreams of future conquests, for his glory , a bloody conflict that cannot be won.
The Empress Pompeia Plotina, a close friend of Hadrian, helps him to be declared Emperor at the passing of his cousin. Not a lover of women, he had a few that were instrumental in his rise to power, strangely Matilda his mother-in- law, but not his second cousin Sabina, his neglected wife And Hadrian wants peace, his Empire needs it badly, an inveterate reader, lover of the Arts, he fixes the economy , reforms the law, the army, brings back wealth to its ignored citizens.
Yet he will leads the Romans, in war as he does in Palestine, suffering countless thousands of casualties, against the Jewish uprising Years later, the returning handsome teenager travels with the Emperor, they become constant companions but in Egypt, on the Nile River, a mystery happens, the lifeless body of Antinous 19, is found an apparent drowning We will never learn the truth For the rest of his days the melancholic Emperor mourns, numerous statues made, a magnificent new city built, Antinoopolis by the river near where he, the boy died, an ardent cult begins to worship him, games played for his memory, deified also by Hadrian but he Antinous, will still be gone forever.
An ailing Hadrian in his last few months, sees that everything he has done , will vanish as the desert sands shift, so too does the hearts of men, all is vanity A terrific historical novel, one of the best if not the greatest ever written. This book gives you an idea what the Roman Empire was like at its summit. Well worth reading for those interested View all 16 comments. In the notes at the back of this book, Marguerite Yourcenar tells us that in she stumbled upon some Piranesi engravings in a shop in New York.
What his contemporaries viewed as a pile of crumbling ruins, took on new life in his rendering, imbued with the phantasms In the notes at the back of this book, Marguerite Yourcenar tells us that in she stumbled upon some Piranesi engravings in a shop in New York. What his contemporaries viewed as a pile of crumbling ruins, took on new life in his rendering, imbued with the phantasms of his peculiar imagination.
Hers too are medium-like gifts; she is an extraordinary intermediary between Hadrian and the reader. We are inside his head, quite an hallucinatory experience.
Piranesi chose to represent the part of the villa known as the Temple of Canope which Hadrian had created as a space to commemorate Antinous, the dead Greek youth he idolized. We know it was a Bacchus but among the many statues of Antinous that exist, several depict him as Bacchus. No one has ever created fictional biography quite like this. View all 33 comments. Nov 22, Paul rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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.
Memoirs of Hadrian
The novel is in the form of a letter from Hadrian to his adopted grand This ought not to work on a number of levels and ought not to be as good as it is.
The novel is in the form of a letter from Hadrian to his adopted grandson Marcus Aurelius. It is in the first person. Hadrian is in his final illness and is looking back over his life. It is a series of musings, reflections, philosophizing and making comment as Hadrian works through his life.
The novel is essentially interior and Yourcenar does say why she selected this particular interior to focus on. Hadrian is a great liker of things and generally quite positive, not afraid to compromise to get things done. For example; "Men adore and venerate me far too much to love me," "Meditation upon death does not teach one how to die. The desire to count up exactly the riches which each new love brings us, and to see it change, and perhaps watch it grow old, accords ill with multiplicity of conquests.
You can tell this novel has really been polished and honed, worked on over and over again. This is fiction, but its great stuff and a great novel. I am also interested in reading more by Yourcenar, her life was also very interesting. View all 11 comments. Nov 15, Dolors rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Lovers of art and history. They are our poles, or our antipodes.
And when the last line is avidly consumed and the confessor meets its nemesis, no historical grandeur or remarkable feat will be imprinted on the reader's ephemeral memory. The intoxicating scent of literary perfection is what will linger in anonymous nostrils, the texture of velvety words is what will invade mental taste buds, and a wave of disarming tenderness and stunned regret will choke the humbled witness of the remnants of two thousand years of magnificence, folly and debatable progress that meander the moors of remote lands that once yielded to one of the greatest men of ancient history.
Hadrian's Wall, November View all 98 comments. Sep 15, mark monday rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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 "But books lie, even those that are most sincere.
The poets transport us into a world which is vaster and more beautiful than our own, with more ardor and sweetness, different therefore, and in practice almost uninhabitable. The philosophers, in order to study reality pure, subject it to about the same transformations as fire or pestle make substance undergo: Historians propose to us systems too perfect for explaining the past, with sequence of cause and effect much too exact and clear to have been ever entirely true; they rearrange what is dead, unresisting material, and I know that even Plutarch will never recapture Alexander.
The story-tellers and spinners of erotic tales are hardly more than butchers who hang up for sale morsels of meat attractive to flies. I should take little comfort in a world without books, but reality is not to be found in them because it is not there whole.
Marguerite Yourcenar imagines the life and perspective of the roman emperor Hadrian, utilizing literally a lifetime of research on her topic. Insofar as the specific activities and people in Hadrian's life are recounted, when the evidence is not there to back up her narrative, she wings it - but in such an elegant way that her own suppositions blend seamlessly with that research and, happily, she notes each of her additions in her afterward.
Nothing jars. It is all of a piece. A brilliant book and a thing of beauty. The seamlessness of its story is also rather besides the point. The author is doing so much more than reimagining certain incidents; she is imagining a whole person.
Memoirs of Hadrian is a reconstruction and an ode, a love poem to a man long dead and the means to understanding that man. Hadrian is not the main character in the book, he is the book itself. And so it reads like an actual memoir - and I'm not sure that that is what I expected. The narrative is one man's life; although there is plenty of excitement and even some suspense, it is a life recounted by a person who knows himself, who wants to explain his life and the things he's learned, but who is not really interested in the kind of storytelling that provides escapist fantasia or thrilling adventure.
Although the book is full of enchanting prose that richly illustrates the details of a past world through imagery that is palpable, sublime I did not find myself really living in ancient Rome, not in the way that I've lived there in more traditional novels or in various television series like Rome or Spartacus or the stagey but ingeniously realized I, Claudius. Rather, I found myself living inside of Hadrian: It is an excellent head to live in.
His musings and recollections made me muse and recollect; reading Hadrian challenge his own perspective made me challenge my own point of view, my own way of living my life. One would think that contemplating politics and battle, love and beauty, life and death and sickness and fate, on such a potently intellectual level Quite the opposite: I found the effect to be calming, it inspired meditation. Memoirs of Hadrian soothed me. Not including two afterwords, it is divided into six parts.
Hadrian takes his own measure and finds himself at times wanting but often satisfied as well. Meanwhile, I took measure of the novel. I did not know what to make of it. Was this all some sort of idiosyncratic introduction? When would the proper story start, when would the familiar pleasures begin to happen?
While I waited, certain things struck me. The joy of moderation.
Memoirs of Hadrian
Love-making as a true path to understanding a person. Sleep, precious sleep. His relationships with his predecessor, emperor Trajan, and with Trajan's highly impressive wife Plotina.
And many other people - personages both major and minor are all rendered equal in Hadrian's musings. The beginning of his lifelong love affair with Greece; a similarly long-lived fascination with cults and the occult, with the world beyond, with signs and wonders.
Hadrian the diffidently ambitious young man, the nature-loving warrior, the clear-eyed mystic. This is where I became enchanted. I realized that this was not truly a novel; Memoirs of Hadrian is a conversation. Despite being the listener, I was an equal part of the conversation.
Memoirs of Hadrian told me fascinating stories and I was duly fascinated - but even more, I came to understand a way of looking at the world, at life, at all of its mysteries.
The conversation was not a debate and so it did not matter if I agreed or disagreed. Nor was the conversation one between friends around a campfire or lifelong partners retelling tales to each other, comfortably. It was the sort of conversation you have in the beginning of a relationship: How you feel about what they feel. How they think and see and act and move about in the world - and so how you think, and see, and act, and move about in the world.
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The similarities and the differences and the gaps and bridges in between. I became enchanted, but not just with Hadrian. I became enchanted with the process, with the way I was learning and evaluating and reacting and, above all, how I was moved to constant contemplation. I was enchanted - by Marguerite Yourcenar. By her ability to become Hadrian and to speak to me in his voice.
This is painful to admit, but I will be frank: I was often bored by this section. Hadrian was a superb emperor, a liberal of the old school, admirable in nearly every way. And so it all became a bit much, this meticulous listing of admirable actions. Just as I am bored when listing my own accomplishments - or, unfortunately, when hearing others list their accomplishments.
It doesn't matter that they are excellent achievements and that they say important things about a person and that person's perspective. I will applaud that person. But reading a lengthy resume is rather a chore. The saving grace for me occurred at the ending of this section: Hadrian and the night, the stars, the mystery and strangeness of the world above and beyond us. Here was the Hadrian I wanted to know. Oh that voluptuous grief! It spawned coinage and cults, temples and cities. I'm familiar with that excessive sadness, that paroxysm, I've seen it and I've felt it.
Hadrian became his most real yet when he was at his lowest point. That intensity, that rage, the grief at a life over too soon, that burning need to show the world who that person was, to make the world grieve with you.
That inability to express yourself clearly, the feeling that no one can understand your sorrow, not really, not the way you are actually experiencing it.
All of this described with passion and delicacy, in language that shimmers, but with the same distance as all else is described. The remove of a memoir written by a thoughtful man. Hadrian describes his excess of emotion meditatively - without excess. That stripping away of drama provided yet another opportunity to step back, to calmly contemplate such terrible things, to better understand others who have experienced the same.
Oh Hadrian! Oh, life. A bitter uprising in Judea and various thoughts on the nature of religion. Fanaticism is punished and it is given approbation; as always - on matters not relating to Antinous - Hadrian is the most even-handed of men. And at last he introduces the emperors who will follow him - the gentle, decent Antoninus and the s S toic, modest Marcus Aurelius.
By this point I knew Hadrian as I know my own hand. I was in a relationship with him, a positive and supportive relationship that had moved beyond and outside of romance into a sort of loving warmth, a complete ease with his viewpoint, a genuine empathy.
It was not so much that he could do no wrong - I saw him as I see a true friend. He was a man to me and not a character in a book. I looked up to him but he was no god; he remained mortal through-and-through. At different times in the book Hadrian describes a particularly faithful ally or servant or lieutenant - not in terms of servility but as someone who actually sees him, who sympathizes with him out of understanding and respect, not by command and not with open-mouthed awe.
I could be such a person to the Hadrian of this book. Yourcenar somehow, somewhere along the way, made her love for this good emperor a love that I experienced as well. He contemplates the end of things and those things that will continue beyond him. He muses on death itself. I read much of this book while my friend was dying. I read it in his living room while he slept, bed-bound for weeks at a time, yet not really believing his death was approaching despite all signs to the contrary.
I read it at home and at work. I took a long break from the book as well, and then returned to its pages as if meeting up with a sorely-needed friend. I read it in the hospice where I had taken my friend to spend his last days - a beautiful place, a place of contemplation. I read it as he slept there, moaning, hands clenching, legs kicking fitfully.
Hadrian and my friend were entirely different but their similarities were deep ones. A fascination with mysticism. An awful loneliness after the loss of their love. And a need to do the right thing - to do right by the world, for the world. They shared those things and they also shared terrible pain at the end, messy and humiliating, an inability to go gently into that good night.
I read this last section after my friend had passed on. It was a hard and beautiful thing to read. All men live and love and suffer and all men will die. Some die with eyes closed but others die with eyes open, weary but still curious, still a part of this world, to their very end, and beyond. Tomorrow I pick up his ashes, his death certificate. They seem like such small things. His last coherent words to me: I wonder what he meant. I will probably always wonder.
I miss you already, my friend. Rest a while. I will see you again. View all 30 comments.
Dec 27, Garima rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: 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. Only his name along with some cursory details occupied a negligible space of my knowledge bank.
I didn 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. So to read about a Roman Emperor by way of fictional memoirs was an unlikely venture for me. I was curious rather than interested as to what exactly this book has achieved which made several of my friends here to write some really exceptional paean in its honor.
And now, here I am adding another voice in telling others that no matter how big or small your library is; it is essentially incomplete without Memoirs of Hadrian. The traces of a golden era which existed centuries ago can be found among the walls of royal palaces, the colors of timeless paintings and the magnificence of stationary sculptures.
But every so often a thick curtain of those very centuries comes in between the creator and the creation. It is then that a need arises of transcending the margins of history books, of crossing the vanished borders, of being a different person altogether. The insight required in depicting a time period other than one is born into and the love required in capturing the beauty of an important individual one has never met becomes the steadfast foundation of an unparalleled wonder.
Marguerite Yourcenar has given us one such wonder which would stay by your side both in this lifetime and beyond. When useless servitude has been alleviated as far as possible, and unnecessary misfortune avoided, there will still remain as a test of man's fortitude that long series of veritable ills, death, old age and incurable sickness, love unrequited and friendship rejected or betrayed, the mediocrity of a life less vast than our projects and duller than our dreams; in short, all the woes caused by the divine nature of things.
Being a dying person and still feeling a sense of tremendous responsibility towards the mankind is a mark of a true leader. These are the most beautiful and honest thoughts I have ever laid my eyes on. This is how Yourcenar has given us a memorable trip to a glorious world which was and where Hadrian still is.
Hadrian was fallible but he knew how to strike that difficult balance between the different philosophies of life. If his conquests had humility, his losses contained prudent lessons. If he had immense love for his empire, he had deep respect for other cultures. If he cultivated virtues of his men, he mitigated his own vices too. He was not God, but he was Godlike. With mesmerizing writing, exquisite translation and the portrait of a majestic ruler, everything here is much more than what their title suggest- Hadrian was more than an Emperor, Marguerite was more than a writer, Grace was more than a translator and this book, it is much more than a book.
Hospes Comesque. View all 63 comments. Jul 20, Sarah Presto agitato rated it it was amazing Shelves: I probably would never have even heard of it. It is that, but it is also biography, philosophy, meditation, poetry.
Hadrian was Emperor of Rome from AD to Marguerite Yourcenar wrote this novel in the form of a memoir, written by Hadrian near the end of his life and addressed to then year old future emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Hadrian discusses his public role and his attempts to use diplomacy more than bloodshed. By the standards of the Roman Empire, his reign was considered peaceful this in spite of a war with the Jews resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the banishment of the Jewish people from Jerusalem.
He reflects on moderation in diet, his love of hunting, and his admiration for Greek culture. Hadrian deals with his grief by deifying the youth and creating a cult which long outlasts them both. Antinous Yourcenar seems to channel this character of antiquity, speaking with an authentic dignity and distance that is not modern in feel.
Hadrian speaks to us, but not in a tell-all confessional. The mood of this book is quiet, thoughtful, and peaceful. It evokes the feeling of walking among ancient ruins, with the eerie sensation that comes when other tourists are out of view, as the warm Italian sun gleams off fragments of stone, and for a moment there is a strange perception that the ruins are whole again, with time somehow distorted. Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli View all 25 comments. Sep 02, Michael Finocchiaro rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is a gorgeous book by Marguerite Yourcenar with the emperor writing to future emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius about his life and the burdens of leadership.
Its tone is a perfect balance of nostalgia, regret and pride all mixed together. A true masterpiece that took her ten years to write, it is also very short and a magnificent read. I found that it was very inspirational and was amazed in how this period of Roman history comes alive under Yourcenar's able pen. An incredible read! It is This is a gorgeous book by Marguerite Yourcenar with the emperor writing to future emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius about his life and the burdens of leadership.
It is rather unfortunate that few current political leaders give off such a breath of humanity and maturity. Sep 27, Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is one of those books you don't so much read as worship at the shrine of. Feb 12, Matt rated it it was amazing Shelves: Gorgeously written, wise and stately. Meditative, deep in a philosophical probing sort of way, moves smoothly and contains a sort of magnificence 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 It's virtually unknown I would quote it at length but I just don't have the copy handy. Highly, insistently, awestruck recommendation for this one Read it and continue to recommend it to your friends. There is much wisdom here, philosophical speculation, psychological insight, historical grandeur and subtle, eloquent, illuminating prose.
Plus, there's some etchings of various Roman sites of antiquity thrown in which are rather breathtaking even when viewed in black and white on the page. Seriously, if you're reading this Do books have a gravitational pull for their rightful owners?
It soothed me, it moved me, the stoic lower case s wisdom of the man was calming and enlightening. Cleared the mind while enchanting the imagination, like a subtle wine on a summer afternoon. View all 6 comments. Apr 02, Sidharth Vardhan rated it it was amazing Shelves: Narrators of Proust and Celine look like so much like their mirror images; in other cases it is true to a lesser extent — but not in this case.
The only thing you will have guessed about Yourcenar by reading MoH, is that she is genius. An innocent reader can easily led to believe that is written by someone who if not a king, is a really old man living in ancient Rome. The narrative is first person — so we enter with a bit of suspicion about the reliability but soon that suspicion is removed.
Hadrian is old and looking forward to his inevitable death. I guess different people react differently at that stage — Hadrian has grown a bit distant from his own self — distant enough to look at his own self objectively: Not that Hadrian is your regular arrogant kings.
Besides the hard qualities of builders, soldiers and generals that you would expect from a Roman king; he has the soft qualities of being knowledgeable, philosophical, lover of arts, at times poetical and perhaps wise; which we associate with people of ancient Greece — and Goodreads. His philosophical reflections and lyrical prose is almost seductive.
Rowling once said, "To a well organised mind, death is but the next best adventure. The following are only a small sample: Too often we forget its scheming.
No one is worthy of it, and I am still unable to account for it. 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 The statue of Hadrian, the 14th Emperor of the Roman Empire, was brought alive by the French author Marguerite Yourcenar in this novel. By allowing Hadrian to be the protagonist of his own letter to Marcus Aurelius, the long forgotten man was recalled from the dead, his life and history revived.
Like an archaeologist, the author uncovered the relics from the past that was buried deep in the mind of an emperor who thought differently about humanity, leadership and statesmanship. Although this novel was published in , it was already finished in the s and became an instant success.
Her hope was that Churchill could become the same kind of leader as the humane Hadrian was and bring peace to the world. Hadrian was Spanish by birth, Roman by descend, Greek by culture, and a peacemaker by principle. The epistolary-style novel deserves the accolades it received. It is a piece of linguistic art. Philosophical and introspective in style. The translation was brilliant. An interesting article on Hadrian the emperor can be viewed here: View all 10 comments.
What are masterpieces? Let us name a few 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 What are masterpieces? There are no novels, plays or biographies included on the list, and the poetry is of the kind that speculates on life.
They have been chosen by one who most values the art which is distilled and crystallized out of a lucid, curious and passionate imagination. I have sometimes thought of constructing a theory of human knowledge which would be based on eroticism, a theory of contact wherein the mysterious value of each being is to offer us just that point of perspective which another world affords. In such a philosophy pleasure would be a more complete but also more specialized approach to the Other, one more technique for getting to know what is not ourselves.
Thus from each art practiced in its time I derive a knowledge which compensates me in part for pleasures lost. I have supposed, and in my better moments think so still, that it would be possible in this manner to participate in the existence of everyone; such sympathy would be one of the least revocable kinds of immortality. There have been moments when that comprehension tried to go beyond human experience, passing from the swimmer to the wave. But in such a realm, since there is nothing exact left to guide me, I verge upon the world of dream and metamorphosis.
Borges once wrote that the powerful recurrence of human dreams is greater miracle than any of the biblical levitations or apparitions. View all 5 comments. Contemplating on his brief life and all of its random yet heavy choices, he finds it impossible to bring all the contradictions in his life into accord, and yet he tries to find peace in death without too much obsessive concern with people and things yet unborn.
What eases death for him the most is the rememberance of t "I was beginning to find it natural, if not just, that we should perish. What eases death for him the most is the rememberance of the death of the beloved Antinous who had "served to enrich but also to simplify my life.
And the shade of Patroclus appears at Achilles' side. The isle of Achilles, also the isle of Patroclus, has become a secret abode for him: At a certain time, a civilization will demand no more refinement or success or life, because it finds itself already belonging more with the dead than with the living. View all 8 comments. 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 This book is not nearly as funny as the similarly titled Diaries of Adrian Mole, so don't get them confused! In the meantime though -- and in case I die suddenly or see something shiny and get distracted, and don't get around to it -- I must note that I think the somewhat creepy, suspicious hype surrounding this book is well deserved, and then some.
You know that one pair of pants you have that makes it look like you've got a terrific ass, even though in reality, most days, you might not in truth? This book was a bit like that, except instead of flattering your butt, reading it makes you feel smarter than you probably are. Not annoying smart, either -- or I'd at least like to think so -- but just more thoughtful and interested in abstract ideas and whatnot than you actually might be in normal life. It did take me awhile to get truly absorbed, but all the "work" did pay off, and I really recommend it.
A reader who, unlike me, knows anything AT ALL about the Roman Empire and what have you would get more out of this than I did and would feel up to speed. I myself am fairly ignorant of the classical world, and what affection I've got tends to be for Greece.
Fortunately for us, though, Hadrian felt the same about Greece being more appealing, that is; he was up on his Rome. Yeah and so, this a fabulous novel which really explores some fascinating territory and the potential of that form, and of our brains and humanity and mortality and whatnot. Human experience, blah blah blah blah History and something something, blah blah blah blah.
It's really good! I just can't be articulate about it, mostly because I'm embarrassed even to try. I would not recommend this to people who find that everything about the Roman Empire leaves them cold; for everyone else, though, I'd say give it a shot. For me this book was the level of "hard" where I found it hard to concentrate on reading while other people were talking. It was the level of "good," though, where I'd tell them to shut up, or at least I'd get up and walk to the other end of the subway car where it was quieter.
This book changed my thoughts, which is kind of all I want. I didn't just think about what was happening in the narrative -- just to clarify, nothing was happening; it was essentially Gilead , if you've read that, only instead of a dying Iowa preacher with heart trouble writing a letter to a young boy, it was a dying Roman emperor with heart trouble writing a letter to a young man -- I thought about the world and civilization and the experience of being a human being differently I mean, I can use that.
Who couldn't? At the end of this volume, in Yourcenar's "Reflections on the Composition of Memoirs of Hadrian," yeah, it's that kind of book she quotes this line from Flaubert's letters: It's about a lot of other stuff too, though.
It's got what I think is one of the most unique and memorable literary love stories. And pictures! It's got beautiful pictures. And it's just excruciatingly well-written During the first quarter of reading this, I noticed that I was getting really depressed about my life and lack of accomplishment and just feeling like a total loser all the time, and then I realized why: I was comparing myself to the Roman Emperor Hadrian!
Compared to Hadrian, I really am a big loser. I mean a BIG loser. But it's not a fair comparison. I was talking last weekend to this somewhat patrician gentleman I use the term "gentleman" loosely about this book, and he told me that they read this as undergraduates at Harvard, where according to him many readers suffer from the opposite problem. Anyway, I'm rambling on, and I don't mean to.
It's past my bedtime, and I can't say anything worthwhile about this book, so I'm just sort of yammering away uselessly. Where I think I might have been going with that I'm-no-Roman-emperor line was: Yourcenar's project has an inherent empathy problem, which she solves.
I'll never be the most powerful man in the world, and I won't even ever be the erudite and brilliant Marguerite Yourcenar, who was, the back cover informs us, "the first woman to be elected to the prestigious French Academy" and who, the cover further notes, in an intimidatingly sober tone, "writes only in French. I've got a library card. Apparently, as I'm learning, that gets me close enough. She first has the idea of writing a book about Hadrian when she is in her twenties, but after several attempts realizes that she is too young: It took me years to learn how to calculate exactly the distances between the emperor and myself.
But Hadrian does not let go of her. He pops up here and there over the following years. Finally, she realizes that Mark stands for Marcus Aurelius and that she has a fragment of her manuscript in her hands, which she had believed to be lost. From this point on, she takes up her work on Hadrian again. With some meticulous research, she is able to bring to life an emperor about whom, unfortunately, so little is known. Scholarship is not sufficient for the creation of this fascinating portrait, however: And she knows that she has to take herself out of the picture: He reflects on his own life and on life in general, as well as his approaching death.
Reading these lines, it is easy to forget that this letter was written by an author who lived in the twentieth century. Her prose is tranquil, composed and occasionally formal — just as one would expect from a valedictory letter written in Latin.
It contains some of the most beautiful and poignant quotes that I have ever read: I have read the French version as well as the English translation, and the elegance and beauty of the prose in both is awe-inspiring. It is difficult to describe the emotions that this book evokes in the reader. For this reason, I recommend it highly to anyone who likes in-depth reading.
You will start asking questions about your own life, your own views, and the way you deal with challenges. None of my literary friends here in Zurich have heard of her, and her books are not stocked in the local bookshops. It is more a reflection on life and politics, with no plot to speak of. It is not a fast read; at least, I did not find this to be the case. I would not recommend it as a beach read or an airport novel.
Rather, this is a book to be savoured in front of the fire, with a delicious cup of tea or a glass of red wine. In your favourite wing chair, under your favourite tree. Marguerite Yourcenar planeou e escreveu este livro entre e Quando terminou queimou tudo. Tinha na altura 25 anos.
A regra do jogo era: Yourcenar , adoptou uma forma muito particular de escrita para este livro. Quanto ao Imperador, a Adriano, leiam: View all 13 comments. Near the beginning of this book, in one of its many lyrical and precise descriptive passages, Hadrian writes about his intimations of mortality. Purporting to be the memoirs of the Roman emperor, Yourcenar's book pulls off the narrative voice so well that you sometimes have to remind yourself that it's fiction; every sentence seems heavy with the wise sadness of someone who has lived for a long time and through many momentous events.
The novel took more than twenty years to write and the quality shows in every line, every phrase. It's not a perfect book, perhaps — although it's short, it is dense like the book Alice's sister was reading, it contains no pictures or conversations , and I found it dragged slightly in the back end — but that's admittedly perhaps because I was reading it in French.
Though the book is a life story, it is also tightly-controlled. This is not a sprawling epic, but rather a thematic portrait of a man at the end of his life dwelling mostly on those experiences which have come to preoccupy him, primarily his own impending death and the moments of love which — just perhaps — will have made it all worthwhile.
For Hadrian, in Yourcenar's conception of him, love and death are closely intertwined. Perhaps that is why he can't leave either of them alone. Architecture sets him off: Hadrian does not draw conclusions from this catalogue of mortality, but the reader is well able to if he or she wishes. There is also an interesting section where Hadrian reflects on his own deification: Being a god, in short, calls for more virtues than being an emperor. This book evokes the idea perfectly.
There is a looming sense of disaster in all this brooding on death, a disaster which finally comes with the fate of Hadrian's beloved Antinous. There is something exceptionally artful in the way that Antinous's story takes up only a small part of the novel, while the ramifications are yet so infused in every sentence Hadrian writes.
Yourcenar — or Hadrian — is coy about the physical side of their relationship, but the book is full of brilliant and perceptive comments on love as an emotion. It's a union that means Hadrian is reluctant to ignore death or pass over its unsavoury features: On the contrary, it's life-affirming, moving and thought-provoking — and built from a prose style which, on occasion, looks something like genius.
View all 21 comments. An Ode Hadrian. You are one of An Ode Hadrian. You are one of many, Hadrian, chosen here by virtue of the crossroads The intersection of your life with the death of Roman Gods And the struggles of Christianity. Nothing more. Nothing less. Within this theological miasma you have yourself, your youth With its glorious physicality, its flights of poetic fancy, its Slow dissolve into the machinations of power hid behind robes and other panderings at officiated strivings.
You came, you saw, you succeeded in the name of Greece and the sense of restraint of one with the broadest stretch of conquered stretch of land The Romans ever did see. All for you to travel upon in your fervency, your desire for aesthetic in all variations available to the landscape.
And so you continued on in contented ruling and contented dabbling In realms of indulgence rich in form and thought, spread wide for your perusal.
Are you happy, Hadrian? An Empire, no less. Upon which the author has seen fit To grant you interests in a multitude of thoughtful meanderings Of Art, Culture, Philosophy, love of the flesh and thrill of the hunt, The Desire for Discovery framed within the Contentment of a Conqueror Connoisseur and Creator on a scale unmatched in these later days Hemmed in by respect of the Other, the facile flow of Knowledge.
I view you, Hadrian, as the flesh views the bones, Acquiescence to the vibrancy of your influence, Contrariness to the limits seemingly imposed By your calcified structures, an inevitability of life That I choose not to fear, but to utilize. Your generosity, your restraint, your insight, Inextricably mixed with your nationalism, your colonialism, The assurance that a wave of your hand would raise a city, Your ostentatious contemplation of your self as a god.
You have many followers here, subsumed in your fair and foul. Would it make you angry, Hadrian, if I stripped your sensibilities, Of all its high flown phrases, its prettied up pretenses toward civilization, And simply termed it white savior complex? Remember, I base this on not a lifelong contemplation of your history, But on a fiction, drawn up by a woman no less, One of those you easily consigned to the label of Other Amongst the Jews, the Orientals, the Christians, the Slaves, The Barbarians.
Would anything less than a swallowing in entirety Of your triumphs, your feats, your biases that grew in comfort Among the profound insight that I admit to admiring, enrage? You are dead and gone, Hadrian. You were content In viewing your one life, your one culture, as perfection, And were fortunate to find favor with the future, Enough to be addressed eighteen hundred seventy-five years Here, in this casual form, after your death.
Where is the rest of your world? Where else does the modern sense Find such material, such scholarship, such vaulted musings, Such ease of access by way of a field long cherished by The ivory towers filled with those that mirror your thoughts, Your self-satisfied ignorance in things beyond your ken.
Your proud Rome is split and sundered, and survives In the very forms of insidious servitude your self of fiction despised. The worth of your beloved Greece lies solely in its ancient past, The modern times speak of Homer and leave the actual country To crippling debt and moral ruin.
You would cry, I think, And rage, and scream, belying all your talk of peace With self and soul listed in this fictional pages, If you were here to see it. The current Age has no patience For your encapsulated philosophizing, your conquering streak, Your yearning to imprint yourself on the widest stage of remembrance.
And yet. I delight in this prose of your life, constrained as it is By the breach of centuries, the warp of fiction, the woof of translation. I find worth in your thoughts, mongering as they are In brutal horrors and easy conscience of a ruler of ages past, The sort of being that, in my world, would reap untold retribution. Never again shall humanity look upon the likes of you, and yet, I find it hard to say good riddance. The road to hell Is paved in well-intentioned displays of power unrestricted By any ramification, any force demanding reconciliation of the soul, And yet, I find it difficult to picture you on such a path.
For you loved, once, and found yourself a fool in losing it. For you ruled, once, and found your efforts as so much sand. For you ran, and sprang, in a faithful body that at last betrayed you And sunk your once sensuous musings into a clot of corporal decay. For you lived, once, and strewed great spreads of land with your design, Sought to elevate as you saw fit the ruins of both build and thought.
For you soldiered many times, and many times you favored peace. For you died, once, as all humanity does, and made such a life For the histories to laud you evermore as one of the good.
And of course, this is a work of fiction. So what do I know. And so, I leave you this ode, a mix of little praise and heavy caution, Grudging admiration and audacious critique. The profile of your death Is not mine to make, not with my veins of cynical forbearance, And lack of interest. You were born, Hadrian, and through fate and fortune Found yourself in a seat of power, made your mark on land and record By all the skills vested by culture and self-interest. And thus the world, Remembers as such, as time melds history with embellishment, And those of the past seep into the newfangled forms of the future.
You came, you saw, and now you sleep, to be brought forth In all your good, and all your ill, by minds who see fit to do so. 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. I just want them to be wise. It may be too late for that in this day and age of handlers and YouTube and issue-driven voters.
But think: Hadrian followed Caligula, Claudius and Nero. Why read, and for that matter, why write a book about a long-ago Emperor? The lessons are anecdotal. Returning the daughter of an Asian ruler, captured in her infancy, without haggling, serves a better end than sending in the legions.
Absorb the knowledge of a colony instead of its tribute. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. This is a Novel in Memoir form. But there are epistolary novels and novels in diary form, so why not this? Historians propose to us systems too perfect for explaining the past, with sequence of cause and effect much too exact and clear to have been ever entirely true.
It is also respectful. The language, though, the language is lush. 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. Although a weaver would wish to mend his web or a clever calculator would correct his mistakes, and the artist would try to retouch his masterpiece if still imperfect or slightly damaged.
Nature prefers to start again from the very clay, from chaos itself, and this horrible waste is what we term natural order. No, Hadrian was in love with Antinous, a lovely teenage boy. Yourcenar spares us the sex but not the obsession.
This time Divinity did not cure, it killed. And so the Memoir is tinged with regret, for being almost wise. I wrote many lessons down. I also found my mind wandering often through the obligatory historical chronology. But after I turned the final page, the importance of this started to play with the light. Oh how I wish our leaders were wise. Or almost wise. Right, Hadrian? View all 20 comments. Oct 13, peiman-mir5 rezakhani rated it really liked it Shelves: Oct 15, Marita rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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.
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