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Memoirs of Hadrian Paperback – Jan 1 1963

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Paperback, Jan 1 1963
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (Jan. 1 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374503486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374503482
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.7 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 640 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,229,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"In her brilliant 'psychological novel and meditation on history,' Marguerite Yourcenar has written an imaginatively daring and artistically persuasive 'self-portrait' of Hadrian."--Orville Prescott

About the Author

Marguerite Yourcenar wrote stories, plays, poems, criticism, and novels. She was the first woman to be elected to the Academie Francaise, in 1980. She died in 1987.

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My dear Mark, Today I went to see my physician Hermogenes, who has just returned to the Villa from a rather long journey in Asia. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on Sept. 4 2003
Format: Paperback
In a long letter to his successor Marcus Aurelius, the old emperor Hadrian, sick and close to death, tells the story of his life, his intense presence on Earth, over which he left traces from Scotland to Iran. Born in Spain, Hadrian is taken at a a very young age to study in Rome and Athens, where he falls in love with all things Greek. Actually he would do much to re-hellenize Rome. Then comes military life in Orient (what we call now the Middle East) and Panonia (roughly Hungary-Czech Rep.), where he acquires and comes to appreciate military values. After Hadrian is made governor of Syria, Emperor Trajan dies and appoints him as his successor. His reign begins, against his will, with the murders of four enemies. Hadrian stops Trajan reckless expansionist wars and consolidates the Empire at its highest point in wealth, power and size. Then come the happy years, when he wanders the Empire, governing and enjoying the company of his young and beloved Antinoo, who would suffer a tragic death. At an old age, he retires to his villa in Tibur, where he supposedly writes the long letter that forms this most engaging book.
This masterpiece creates a living human being, one who transmits greatness, intelligence, cultivation, sensitivity and unique statesmanship abilities (not so common these days). Hadrian is, of course, a man with a big ego (how to be Emperor of Rome and not have one?), yet he is anything but vain or naïve about himself. He does not swallow the tale about emperors' divinity: he knows himself to be mortal, vulnerable and his religiosity is vague and sober. He learns to know Man. He abhors the Coloseum carnages, but shows up because he understands their role in alleviating the people's lives.
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By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 24 2004
Format: Hardcover
Marguerite Yourcenar's "Memoirs of Hadrian" is one of the finest examples of historical fiction I have read, and without question, the best that's been told through the eyes of its protagonist, the Roman emperor Hadrian. Yourcenar's superb accomplishment is a fictitious memoir of Rome during the early years of the 2nd Century A. D. that is as mesmerizing as any work by the likes of genuine Roman historians such as Tacitus or Suetonius. Her memoir offers us a man who was truly one of the most liberal, and far-sighted, of Rome's early emperors; a philosopher-king who bequeathes his wisdom and knowledge to his adopted nephew and successor, the young Marcus Aurelius, in the form of a lengthy letter that is the text of Yourcernar's novel. This is an admirable, compelling portrait of a man who chose to rule wisely and well, forsaking the wars of conquest waged by his immediate predecessor Trajan, for a reign noted for its peace and prosperity and a successful effort to "re-hellenize" Rome by a devout admirer of Greek history and culture. This terse book is told in fluid, often lyrical prose ably translated into English by Yourcenar and her long-time companion, the American Grace Frick. Following the novel's conclusion, Yourcernar provides some compelling vignettes recounting how she finally wrote this book.
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By marzipan on April 3 2003
Format: Paperback
So many reviews have commented on how remarkable this book is that it's difficult to add anything to what has been said. It is a wonderful book, one to read again and again. I'm only making an attempt to add something because for me the most amazing aspect of this very great (and completely enjoyable) historical novel was how I forgot, while reading, that the author was not Hadrian himself. I can't think of any book where an author has so convincingly vanished behind the main character. Hadrian speaks! I also found the book easy to start reading and hard to put down
At the end of his life, looking back through his memoir as imagined by Marguerite Yourcenar, the emperor doesn't try to create a picture of a man who is flawless. This most thoughtful leader was far from that. But by accepting himself as he was, he had the courage to lead.
Any visitor to Rome feels the soul of the Emperor Hadrian, particularly, I think, in his most remarkable monument, the Pantheon. This is a book all travelers to Rome should read--before and after the visit.
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Format: Paperback
One of the most important skills a student must acquirer when learning history, amongst others, is the ability to evoke a state of empathy for the time period under study. Names, dates and events can only provide us with the obvious and superficial, however, in my opinion, to actually attempt to place oneself emotionally at a particular place on the time-line, can give us a greater insight and a much more profound understanding. Through this method, too, history is not merely words on a page, but something tangible and relevant.
~Memoirs of Hadrian~ conjures the world of ancient times through the eyes of the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, with such sensual accuracy that, wholly or in part, a conscious attempt at 'suspension of disbelief' is not necessary, because one can sit back and let the author do it for you...Yourcenar is a magician at literary prose. In her 'Reflection on the Composition', she writes a curious comment:
"Time itself has nothing to do with it. It is always surprising to me that my contemporaries, masters as they consider themselves to be over space, apparently remain unaware that one can contract the distance between centuries at will." (276)
This is a unique and somewhat mysterious skill to have, and a skill every historian should possess or at least learn, because history is so vital to the present day.
This is a magnificent novel because it combines historical erudition with a superlative prose style, placing the reader into the time of one of the most fascinating Roman Emperors of the second century. As is well known to students of ancient Rome, Hadrian came to power after Trajan, and stopped Rome's imperialist expansion, concentrating his efforts on domestic issues, enriching culturally, Rome and her colonies.
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