Read Memorie di Adriano: seguite dai taccuini di appunti by Marguerite Yourcenar Livia Storoni Mazzolani Online


"Tutto mi girava attorno in quella sala dove le teste dei buoi selvatici dei trofei barbari pareva mi ridessero in viso. Le giare si succedevano; qua e là zampillava un canto avvinazzato, o il riso lascivo e insolente di un paggio; l'imperatore, posando sul tavolo una mano sempre più malferma, murato in una ebbrezza forse in parte simulata, sperduto, lontano da tutto, sull"Tutto mi girava attorno in quella sala dove le teste dei buoi selvatici dei trofei barbari pareva mi ridessero in viso. Le giare si succedevano; qua e là zampillava un canto avvinazzato, o il riso lascivo e insolente di un paggio; l'imperatore, posando sul tavolo una mano sempre più malferma, murato in una ebbrezza forse in parte simulata, sperduto, lontano da tutto, sulle strade dell'Asia, sprofondava gravemente nelle sue visioni..."Ormai vecchio, l'imperatore Adriano scrive una lunga lettera al giovane Marco Aurelio, nella quale rivisita, in un'aura di malinconia e di smarrimento, le vicende della propria vita pubblica e privata, interrogandosi sul suo senso e sul suo destino. Padrone del mondo, e tuttavia acutamente consapevole della caducità delle cose umane, egli si interroga, in definitiva, sulla condizione dell'individuo, tanto più tragica nel suo non poter evitare la morte e la rovina, quanto più straordinaria e preminente il caso ha voluto che fosse.Anche la passione d'amore, che almeno una volta gli ha illuminato l'esistenza grazie all'incontro col giovane greco Antinoo, si converte presto in lutto per il silenzioso suicidio dell'amato. E a lui non resta che continuare a vivere e ad adempiere il suo altissimo ufficio, contemplando con sgomento il "volto deforme" delle cose.Pubblicato nel 1951, Memorie di Adriano è uno dei capolavori assoluti della letteratura francese contemporanea: l'invenzione narrativa, il saggio storico, la meditazione filosofica e un sommesso ma pervasivo lirismo, si fondono in un insieme perfettamente coeso e originalissimo, sostenuto da un stile alto e solenne, eppure duttile fino a saper rendere con plastica evidenza anche i più riposti e sottili moti dell'animo. E il risultato è un libro di grande limpidezza etica e di irresistibile fascinazione, che continua a insegnarci a vivere, e a morire....

Title : Memorie di Adriano: seguite dai taccuini di appunti
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ISBN : 9788481305432
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 287 Pages
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Memorie di Adriano: seguite dai taccuini di appunti Reviews

  • Kelly
    2019-02-03 00:41

    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 connotations, or the same cultural usage, really, but nonetheless they all get at something- something they all peek and pry at from different angles, but do not capture entirely. For me, the meaning of all these words is most exquisitely expressed in a Latin phrase: Lacrimae rerum. It is found in the Aeneid, and my favorite translation of it (which yes of course means I will ignore all others) is “tears of things.” It is said by Aeneas as he gazes at a mural of the Trojan War, overcome with anger and sadness, going to a place beyond either of these emotions to... the “tears of things".This word.. whatever its meaning, does not exist in English. It needs several words to describe what it means in this language, and I think that some words need to be repeated and said in the right way to convey it in the same way. But it still wouldn’t work. It certainly wouldn’t work in America. America is the anti- this word. America is founded on the promise that everyone should be free to not know what this word means, and moreover that its residents should make it a point to laugh at it when they see it. This word is silly, eye-roll inducing, a “stage”. It is helpful that in the United States, imitations and shadows of it are mostly laughable, thought of as a way to sell black lipstick to 16 year old goth girls or let floppy haired boys think they are James Dean for owning a leather jacket. It doesn’t really have anything to do with that, though. I said I was surprised that Memoirs of Hadrian isn’t considered a part of the canon here. I’m not, really. How could it be? The closest we get to this book is Gatsby and Jay Gatsby’s nouveau riche problems are (mostly) beside the point. Our coming of age novel is Catcher in the Rye. One of the French ones has a title that translates as The Lost Estate. I think the title says enough.This is not a historical version of The Unbearable Lightness of Being that I’m pitching here. But it does have something to do with time, time and the weight of it. It has something to do with the last time I was in Italy. I wandered off the standard routes into the side streets and came on an idle construction site- a building with its foundations dug out, standing on stilts, shining and new, but idle, the sign said, since the previous March. This was because someone had found the remains of pottery, art and other foundations from the Roman Empire. The national authorities were so backed up with other discoveries of this kind around the country that they hadn’t gotten around to clearing it out, nearly a year and a half later- and this was a site near the center of Rome. It isn’t about the fact that it happened, only, though.Memoirs of Hadrian is a meditation on finding a pile of pottery shards and deciding what to do with them. Your decision depends very much on what you see in them, or really, more precisely who you see in them. What tale takes shape in your brain- what is relevant to be put down on paper, if you think there’s anything genuine to be found or what genuine means to you, and most of all if perhaps you’d just as well better get on with building your office park, which is after all supported by some stilts right now and won’t (and shouldn’t) wait forever. Yourcenar changed her mind about her particular pile of pottery shards many times. She changed her mind so hard the first time, she burned the remains. Then she did it again, five years later. But she retained one sentence from her 1934 bonfire: "I begin to discern the profile of my death.” With that sentence she had, like a “painter who moves his easel from left to right,” found the proper viewpoint for the book. But pottery shards look different in the light of Europe, 1939. They look even more strange in 1942, in a Yale library next to newspapers whose headlines speak of many, many office parks that need to be rebuilt, and some that never will be, until one thinks of the shards “with something like shame for having ever ventured upon such an undertaking.”But then a trunk arrives from Switzerland in 1948. It bears letters from old friends, many of whom are now dead... and one letter to someone who has been dead much longer.“Dear Mark,”it begins. Something else escaped Europe’s bonfires, something she hadn’t remembered she’d created at all- the beginning of another letter, from an imagined Hadrian, to his young heir, Marcus Aurelius. Somehow, it survived. And then she thought of something else to do with her pottery shards- perhaps it was time to begin putting them back together. Or better, it was time to tell the young heirs how to put them back together.But how do you do that? How do you pick up the pieces and go on when you can’t even honestly say you know where they should rightfully go? You may have lived more than thirty years trying to figure it out, immersing yourself in the craft of it until you could do it blind, but you’re just guessing in the end. Aren’t you painting it just a little bit shinier than it was before? Doesn’t everything fit together better than it should? What should you do with this notation from a critic that says there was a crack in it from the very first time he saw it? Do you restore the cracks? Or do you have a responsibility to put the best face you can on it, to present it as the maker would have ideally wanted it to be seen? Don’t the ideas matter more than the reality? Whatever the answers to these things, you have to start with the hardest task: looking the remains in the face. “Sheltering the flame of my lamp with my hand, I would lightly touch that breast of stone. Such encounters served to complicate memory’s task; I had to put aside like a curtain the pallor of the marble to go back, in so far as possible, from those motionless contours to the living form.. Again I would resume my round; the statue, once interrogated, would relapse into darkness; a few steps away my lamp would reveal another image; these great white figures differed little from ghosts. I reflected bitterly upon those magic passes whereby the Egyptian priests had drawn the soul of the dead youth into the wooden effigies… I had done like them; I had cast a spell over stones which, in their turn, had spellbound me.”Who is the story of your life for? Why are you creating this memory for someone? Why should one more pottery shard rule someone’s life, for however long? Is it only a decoration for an already grand tomb? Or, perhaps, is it one more way to make your peace with your own point of view before it too, is thrown on the bonfire? Hadrian is at delving into his memory as deeply as he can, and fighting it at the same time. He just wants to leave advice for an heir, and it is advice that is needed more than ever. It is, after all, being left for a young man who is at the most an afterthought- a lucky find after a series of disasters wherein the chosen heirs proved monstrously unworthy or have already died uselessly and horribly from an excess of virtue. He is simply the one left standing in the ashes while an old man is staring his death throes in the face, and, like all his predecessors, finding it difficult to let go. So what do you do, to tell him all he should know? Someone not of your blood, who you haven’t had the education of, not really. What you can do? You tell him what happened to you- as fairly as you can, with whatever inner battles you need to fight laid open. You tell him a story. You tell him a story with as much as you can bear to tell left in, and let it go on… and on... and on. Make sure he feels the years as you build one temple after another, and fall in love and out again, win one city and watch another fall. Make sure he hears about your errors, your flaws. Especially make sure to destroy the biggest positive myth about you- he must know the way it is, lest he look to myths for support when you are gone and find nothing but air. You may have constructed gods, but he will need to support them and say why they are there, in order for them to live on. You should temper the worst tales about you, but not too much- it is better if find out for himself that you’ve no need to protest your innocence. He must feel your despair, your Spenglerian conviction that the Faustian wintertime has come, that there is nothing more to be done: “I was beginning to find it natural, if not just, that we should 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 Antonious in stone, no Praxiteles has come to hand. Our sciences have been at a standstill… our technical development is inadequate…even our pleasure seekers grow weary of delight… the masses remain wholly ignorant, fierce and cruel when they can be so, and in any case limited and selfish…”He'll read these words, words from the mouth of a generation so far removed from his own, brought up with such wildly different expectations and knowledge about the world, irrevocably shattered by events that they could not conceive of… It could almost make you laugh with relief to read this and then think of Michelangelo’s angels screaming out of the marble. Then, almost unnecessarily, you can tell him that: “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, liberty, and justice will here and there regain the meaning which we have tried to give them. Not all our books will perish, nor our statues, if broken, lie unrepaired; other domes and other pediments will arise from our domes and pediments; some few men will think and work and feel as we have done, and I venture to count upon such continuations, placed irregularly throughout the centuries, and upon this kind of intermittent immortality.”That is how you make a memory without burden- to reconcile Catcher and The Lost Estate after all. If you cannot do it, someone else will. To paraphrase Stoppard: we die on the march, but nothing is outside of it and nothing can be lost to it. If a sixteen year old math prodigy does not make calculus known to the world, another man, not long later, will do it. The weight of these statues, these ghosts, is not your obligation. They are there for those who need to look at them and find themselves in their shadows, and that is all. Time can continue to pile down minute by minute, but you are not its prisoner. Merely a welcome guest, who may stay as long as you like. If you do not choose to walk in Time’s garden, your loss will not bring haunting down upon you in another, New, world- there will be enough who choose to stay. Those who do stay will not be unmarked by it, and those who leave will be the same with their choice- we can but choose and choose and choose again. We are what we consistently do. What Time throws up for notice enough times to be remembered.…There is an epilogue, though. Of course there is. Telling him the essential information to get through the day isn’t enough. Not even telling him a story and setting him free. No- he needs to know why you got up every morning- he needs to know about the lacunae between the temple building and warring in the desert. He has to know why he should listen to you. Digressions, pauses, and footnotes make the man, and the boy you are reading to knows that better than anyone, or he will, by the time he finishes this. So tell him about how heaven is the constellations in the Syrian night, about the wind whispering out of the sands of Judea, about the memory of an old man in a garden in Spain. He needs to know about women you cherished and men you hated. But most of all, most of all, he needs to know about the man you loved, how you loved him, and for how long- how you thought of him more and more as death came close. How Love seemed to be the way your story would end. But it wasn’t. We end with only ourselves. History is in the last line of this book- what Hadrian dies with is why History exists and should exist and we should all remember, and yes, beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past.

  • Manny
    2019-01-27 23:17

    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 magic": she spent several years systematically transforming herself into a vessel for the long-dead Emperor's spirit. She read every book still in existence that mentioned him or that he might have read. She visited the places he had visited, and touched the statues he had touched. Every night, she tried to imagine that she was Hadrian, and spent hours writing minutely detailed accounts of what he might have seen and felt. She was acutely aware of all the pitfalls involved, and used her considerable skills to efface herself from the process; "she did not want to breathe on the mirror". She compiled tens of thousands of pages of notes and rough drafts, nearly all of which she burned. The final result, the memoirs Hadrian might have composed on his deathbed but never did, represents the distilled essence of this process, and it is unique in my experience. The language is a beautiful and highly stylised French that feels very much like Latin; the cadences are those of Latin, and every word she uses is originally derived from Latin or Greek. (This effect must be hard to imitate in translation to a non-Romance language). The world-view is, throughout, that of the second century A.D. The illusion that Hadrian is speaking to you directly is extraordinarily compelling. Hadrian emerges as a great man. With Trajan's conquest of Mesopotamia just before his accession to the throne, the Empire had reached its peak; indeed, it was now clearly over-extended and threatened with collapse. Hadrian's difficult task was to stabilise it to the extent possible and maintain the increasingly uneasy peace, and he succeeded well enough that it survived for several hundred more years after his death. He describes his work with measured passion, neither boasting of his successes nor despairing of his occasional dreadful failures; the Second Jewish War occurred near the end of his reign, resulting in the obliteration of Judea and the dispersal of the entire Jewish race. He is candid about his private life, and Yourcenar's description of his tragic liaison with Antinoüs is probably the most impressive achievement of the book. Hadrian, who like most of his class was promiscuously bisexual, takes as his lover a fourteen year old boy. The relationship, like everything else in the book, is presented entirely within the context of Hadrian's own culture, and I was able to accept it as such. It's extremely moving; even if you are the absolute ruler of the known world, you are as defenceless against love as everyone else. When Antinoüs kills himself shortly before his twentieth birthday, Hadrian realises too late that he is the love of his life. His Stoic philosophy and his strong sense of duty keep him functioning, but from then on he only longs to be released.It is fortunate that, every now and then, the world acquires for a brief moment a man like Hadrian or a woman like Yourcenar. Read this book and you will feel inspired to be a better person.

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-02-04 18:41

    ”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 pleasure-lovers grow weary of delight. More civilized ways of living and more liberal thinking in the course of the last century are the work of a very small minority of good minds; the masses remain wholly ignorant, fierce and cruel when they can be so, and in any case limited and selfish; it is safe to wager that they will never change.”HadrianHadrian ruled from 117-138 and was the 14th Emperor of the Roman Empire. He was the third of five emperors that are referred to as the good emperors. He had good men to follow and also provided a good example of leadership to those that followed in his footsteps. He was the adopted son of Trajan (Roman Emperors seemed to routinely struggle to produce offspring.), and the first controversy of his ascension to power was that Trajan had never officially named him as his successor, but on a deathbed edict signed by Plotina the wife of Trajan, not by the Emperor, Hadrian was named to succeed. He was uniquely qualified to lead Rome. As a soldier he was able to view the empire from a different perspective than any of the leadership in Rome. He fought courageously, but was discomforted from all the killing that was necessary to put down rebellions or conquer new territory. To Hadrian the warriors, women, and children they were killing were people that could have made good Roman citizens. This experience convinced him to change the policies of his predecessors. As Emperor he stopped the expansion of the empire and spent his time shoring up the relationship of Rome with the people of all the nations that composed the Roman Empire. He wanted everyone to have skin in the game. ”I was determined that even the most wretched, from the slaves who clean the city sewers to the famished barbarians who hover along the frontiers, should have an interest in seeing Rome endure.”PantheonHe rebuilt the Pantheon. ”I myself had revised its architectural plans, drawn with too little daring by Apollodorus: utilizing the arts of Greece only as ornamentation, like an added luxury, I had gone back for the basic form of the structure to the primitive, fabled times of Rome and to the round temples of ancient Etruria.” Hadrian was enamored with Greece and brought their philosophies and focus on art back to prominence in Roman thought. He built cities, repaired sculptures and ancient architecture, not just in Italy, but throughout the territories. He wanted his thinking, his beliefs to be felt everywhere. He was the first Emperor to travel to all of the geography of the Roman Empire. Instead of conquest, he built walls, most famously in England, to keep out nations hostile to Rome. He spent more time away from Rome than he did in Rome and improved the feeling towards Rome just by being a presence in areas most disaffected and disenchanted with being part of the Empire. Hadrian's WallHadrian loved meeting people from different cultures and as a good Roman always wanted to assimilate the best of all humanity. He was a deep thinker who had a broad understanding of philosophies and religions. He liked to take time to think, to fantasize about a new life, a new world, but at the same time found that even entertaining such ideas he was alone among men of his class. ”I played with the idea...To be alone, without possessions, without renown, with none of the advantages of a civilization, to expose oneself among new men and amid fresh hazards...Needless to say it was only a dream, and the briefest dream of all. This liberty that I was inventing ceased to exist upon closer view; I should quickly have rebuilt for myself everything that I had renounced. Furthermore, wherever I went I should only have been a Roman away from Rome. A kind of umbilical cord attached me to the City. Perhaps at that time, in my rank of tribune, I felt still more closely bound to the empire than later as emperor, for the same reason that the thumb joint is less free than the brain. Nevertheless I did have that outlandish dream, at which our ancestors, soberly confined with the Latian fields, would have shuddered; to have harbored the thought, even for a moment, makes me forever different from them.” Even Emperor’s dream of being someone else. Marguerite YourcenarYourcenar, as you can tell from the quotes I have shared, tells this story from the first person narrative in the form of a letter to Marcus Aurelius. We are in the mind of Hadrian. We experience the building of his philosophies, the implementation of change he had envisioned while only a tribune, and the compassion and retribution he shows his enemies. We feel the grief, on par with Alexander for Hephaestion, when Hadrian’s very close lover, a Greek youth named Antinous, drowns. Rome was lucky to have him as Emperor during a time when they were struggling to maintain control of an empire that had grown too large. He certainly extended the life of the Roman Empire and put forward concepts, in particular to equality, that were far ahead of their time. This novel is considered a classic of historical fiction and like all good literature I know I will be thinking about it for a long, long time. Highly Recommended!If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:

  • Hadrian
    2019-02-05 22:18

    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 talking to the elderly and listening to their lives.

  • Henry Avila
    2019-01-30 17:23

    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, sent to Rome for an education by his family at 12, with a trusted guardian, the father had just expired at 40. The future ruler shows promise, studies hard and does well... in the army he is fearless, against the enemy maybe even reckless, his men always cheer him, as a civilian too, a good magistrate in Rome, though like many men of his age spends his money foolishly, loving both men and women and goes into debt, this annoys Trajan greatly. 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... she hated him but didn't cause any scandals to the grateful Hadrian. 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... In Asia Minor, what is now Turkey, meeting a Greek boy Antinous, in Claudiopolis, the Roman province of Bithynia...sent to Rome to receive schooling, this attractive child grows up and becomes the love of Hadrian's life. 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... or murder, suicide, an accident? 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...

  • Fionnuala
    2019-02-16 21:44

    In the notes at the back of this book, Marguerite Yourcenar tells us that in 1941 she stumbled upon some Piranesi engravings in a shop in New York. One of them was a view of the interior of Hadrian’s Villa as it might have looked in the 1740s. I say ‘might have’ because the famous Piranesi had a talent for adding interesting layers to his engravings of the monuments of Rome. 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. Yourcenar, who had been researching Hadrian’s life for many years, interprets Piranesi’s version of Hadrian’s Villa as the inside of a human skull upon which strands of vegetation hang like human hair. She recognizes Piranesi’s genius in conveying an hallucinatory echo of the tragic interior world of the Villa’s former owner, the Emperor Hadrian, and she praises Piranesi’s medium-like gifts, his ability to be an extraordinary intermediary between the Villa and the Emperor. When I had digested her words, it occurred to me that this is exactly how I’d describe her own achievement in this book. 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.And there’s a further parallel between the Piranesi engraving and Yourcenar’s book. 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. The statue of Antinous which Hadrian had placed in the centre of that space was no longer there in Piranesi’s time but it is interesting that among the many possible views of Hadrian’s Villa which Piranesi could have selected, he chose the exact site of the missing statue. Antinous dominates Piranesi’s work by his absence - just as he dominated Hadrian’s life by his absence, and Yourcenar’s book in turn.It seemed fitting to seek out the missing statue though it’s not been an easy task. We know it was a Bacchus but among the many statues of Antinous that exist, several depict him as Bacchus. The large marble known as the Braschi Antinous, now in the Vatican Museums, corresponds best perhaps to Yourcenar’s description of the statue that she believes once stood in Hadrian’s Temple of Canope. (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)]Yourcenar mentions the fine Italian marble from which the statue has been delicately chiselled, and the motif of vine leaves circling the slightly bent and sorrowful head which she interprets as a reference to the early harvest of the young man’s life: L’œuvre d'Antonianus a été taillée dans un marbre italien...Elle est d'une délicatesse infinie. Les rinceaux d'une vigne encadrent de la plus souple des arabesques le jeune visage mélancolique et penché : on songe irrésistiblement aux vendanges de la vie brève, à l'atmosphère fruitée d'un soir d'automne..Yourcenar’s book is itself as beautiful as that block of marble and as delicate as the vine motif.No one has ever created fictional biography quite like this.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Dolors
    2019-02-16 21:47

    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 extreme position which they take, and that heir heroism consists in holding to that extremity throughout their lives. They are our poles, or our antipodes.”Underneath the imposing greatness of the historical figure that Yourcenar pens with unfaltering dexterity, a moribund man exhales his last breath prostrated on his deathbed and confronts his contradictory selves. Drowned in erotic ambiguity, haunted by idyllic remembrances of platonic love and superfluous infatuation, Hadrian drops the mask of formidable Emperor and shows himself as a vulnerable man plagued by his remorse, aggressive pride and reckless ambition who can’t impede the upcoming dissolution of the world he has so meticulously constructed with obsessive discipline and bloodstained sacrifice. Combining prodigious refinement with erudite depth, Yourcenar masters the first person narrative and becomes a multifaceted ventriloquist that deconstructs the layers of Hadrian’s overpowering personality while unfolding his intimate ponderings about ageing and death, friendship and true love, art and philosophy, justice and social order with academic rigorousness and aesthetic excellence, creating a dramatic tension that reaches its peak through self-absorbed observation rather than galloping action.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 2014

  • mark monday
    2019-01-16 18:25

    "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 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: nothing that we have known of a person or of a fact seems to subsist in those ashes or those crystals to which they are reduced. 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."Reality may not be found in books, but truth can exist there, in some books.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). "Seamless" is a pretty good word to use when describing the entire enterprise. 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: he is this novel's world. 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... that this would make for a dry and heavy book. 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.ANIMULA VAGULA BLANDULAThe beginning starts at the end. 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. Love-making as a true path to understanding a person. Sleep, precious sleep.VARIUS MULTIPLEX MULTIFORMIS Hadrian recounts his early life and the stops & starts on his way to becoming emperor. 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: you are hearing stories but mainly you are learning about a person; you are learning how to understand them, and so you are learning about yourself as well. 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. 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.TELLUS STABILITA In this lengthy section, Hadrian recounts his goals and challenges and accomplishments as emperor.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.SAECULUM AUREUM The beloved youth Antinous: his introduction to Hadrian, their life together, his death, Hadrian's sorrow.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.DISCIPLINA AUGUSTA Hadrian's recounts the autumn of his reign. 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.PATIENTIA Hadrian wrestles with his sickness, his longing for death. 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: "Mark, remember... one book does not make a library!"Such an odd and funny thing to say. I wonder what he meant. I will probably always wonder.I miss you already, my friend. Rest a while. I will see you again.

  • Sarah (Presto agitato)
    2019-01-16 20:31

    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 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). Most of the emperor’s recollections, however, focus on the personal, even the trivial. He reflects on moderation in diet, his love of hunting, and his admiration for Greek culture. With a reserved tone that belies his depth of feeling, he relates his love for the young Bithynian, Antinous, and his sorrow at Antinous’ death. Hadrian deals with his grief by deifying the youth and creating a cult which long outlasts them both. There must be hundreds of statues of Antinous in the world’s museums today, a testament to an emperor’s attempt to cope with a very personal sorrow.AntinousYourcenar 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. In her notes on the writing of the novel, Yourcenar quotes from Flaubert about the period when Hadrian lived, “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.” Her Hadrian is a man of that age, not ours.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

  • Garima
    2019-01-30 22:42

    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’t know Marguerite Yourcenar or Grace Frick either. 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. They not only tell about the artist’s muse but the artist themselves. 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. Hadrian while on his death bed bequeathed a small package of valuable reflections in the form of a lovely letter to young Marcus Aurelius but behind the salutation of ‘Dear Mark’ one can imagine their own name being addressed. 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. She hasn’t presented her hero in the shining bright light of perfection and righteousness. 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.

  • Michael Finocchiaro
    2019-02-12 17:21

    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 rather unfortunate that few current political leaders give off such a breath of humanity and maturity.

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-01-25 21:40

    This is one of those books you don't so much read as worship at the shrine of.

  • Paul
    2019-02-01 19:33

    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 grandson Marcus Aurelius. It is in the first person. Hadrian is in his final illness and is looking back over his life. If you are looking for snappy dialogue then this is not the book for you, nor is there any “action”. 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. It stems from a quote she found by Flaubert;“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”This seems to have been the attraction of Hadrian. The novel was published in 1951 and there may also be some connection between the post Second World War situation and Hadrian’s time.Hadrian’s musings are wide ranging and cover love (especially Antinous his teenage lover), administration (managing and empire), war, religion, philosophy (especially Greek), food, marriage, pastimes (hunting et al), politics, friends and enemies, travel and much more. Hadrian is a great liker of things and generally quite positive, not afraid to compromise to get things done. Yourcenar puts into Hadrian’s mouth all sorts of aphorisms and wise words. For example;"Men adore and venerate me far too much to love me,""Meditation upon death does not teach one how to die."“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.”“I am not sure that the discovery of love is necessarily more exquisite than the discovery of poetry.”“The technique of a great seducer requires a facility and an indifference in passing from one object of affection to another which I could never have; however that may be, my loves have left me more often than I have left them, for I have never been able to understand how one could have enough of any beloved. 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.”There are dozens more like that, usually making the book a joy to read, occasionally irritating or provoking. You can tell this novel has really been polished and honed, worked on over and over again. This is so good a novel that it is easy to forget this isn’t real history. Mary Beard’s Guardian article explodes some of those myths; 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.

  • Sidharth Vardhan
    2019-02-17 00:30

    “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 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.If I believed in spirits, I could have asserted that Hadrian’s had possessed Yourcenear. 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: “I have come to speak of myself, at times, in the past tense.”Another thing which shadow of death does is that it makes king of one of most powerful empires look so much like an ordinary, powerless man.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." That is Yourcenar 's Hadrian for you. The narrator impresses on reader’s mind an image of wise old man accepting his inevitable death with a confidence of conviction (rather than arrogance of ignorance as is normally the case) and giving his last lesson (in most lyrical language) to his disciple; perhaps with one hand raised to heavens like in ‘Death of Socrates’.(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)]I’ve whole pages of quotes from the book. The following are only a small sample:“Morals are matter of private agreement; decency is of public concern.”“We talk much of the dreams of youth. Too often we forget its scheming.” “To me, who had not yet given first place to anything except to ideas or projects, or at the most to a future image of myself, this simple devotion of man to man seemed prodigious and unfathomable. No one is worthy of it, and I am still unable to account for it.”“I knew that good like bad becomes a routine, that the temporary tends to endure, that what is external permeates to the inside, and that the mask, given time, comes to be the face itself.”“I am not sure that the discovery of love is necessarily more exquisite than the discovery of poetry.”["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Matt
    2019-01-26 17:46

    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 own respect.It's virtually unknown...a diamond in the rough. I would quote it at length but I just don't have the copy handy. Highly, insistently, awestruck recommendation for this one....this is the kind of book which one wants to speak about at great length but I sense that its power is also the type which absorbs perhaps too deeply for simple summary....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....READ THIS GODDAMN BOOK!***I thought it would be worth mentioning that I recently picked this book up again by chance (it was given back to me from a friend who'd read it and put it on his bookshelf for maybe 6 months...isn't it funny how sometimes books you borrow end up sort of absorbing into your own collection, adopted unconsciously into the family of your library and vice versa? Do books have a gravitational pull for their rightful owners?) and read it for solace in the evening after the bottom dropped out in a rather important part of my life. 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.

  • Margitte
    2019-01-26 23:27

    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 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 1951, it was already finished in the 1940s 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:

  • Jasmine
    2019-02-10 23:27

    "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 italic from 'Reflection on the Composition'). 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: 'There are books which one should not attempt before having passed the age of forty…..It took me years to learn how to calculate exactly the distances between the emperor and myself.’ She then burns some of the notes that she has taken. But Hadrian does not let go of her. He pops up here and there over the following years. In an artist’s shop, she discovers a Piranesi engraving named ‘View of Hadrian’s Villa’. She writes an essay on Greek mythology where Hadrian’s name appears. She continues reading authors from classical antiquity and realizes that '…one of the best ways to reconstruct a man’s thinking is to rebuild his library.’ Eventually, in 1948, she discovers some four or five typewritten sheets with the salutation ‘My dear Mark…’. 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: 'One foot in scholarship, the other in magic arts, or more accurately and without metaphor, absorption in that sympathetic magic which operates when one transports oneself, in thought, into another’s body and soul.’. And she knows that she has to take herself out of the picture: ‘Keep one’s own shadow out of the picture; leave the mirror clean of the mist of one’s own breath; take only what is most essential and durable in us….’. The result of all those years of research, reflection, meditation and ultimately writing is ‘Mémoires d’Hadrien’ – a book which, I can state here without hesitation, is very special. ‘Memoirs of Hadrian’ consists of a valedictory letter that Hadrian writes to his successor, Marcus Aurelius. 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. I had the impression that it must have been written by the dying Roman emperor himself, 'a man who was almost wise’. Yourcenar’s writing is so real. 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 am not sure that the discovery of love is necessarily more exquisite than the discovery of poetry.’ (p.41)'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' (p.47)'Since hatred, stupidity, and delirium have lasting effects, I saw no reason why good will, clarity of mind and just practice would not have their effects, too.’ (p.90)I quote here from the English translation by Grace Frick, done in collaboration with the author. Grace Frick and Marguerite Yourcenar had a romantic relationship, and I am convinced that Frick’s translation grasps the pulchritude of the original. 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. To understand the philosophical depths of Yourcenar’s writing, and to absorb the beauty of her language, it really must be read. 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. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that Yourcenar’s work might not be very well known outside of France. None of my literary friends here (in Zurich) have heard of her, and her books are not stocked in the local bookshops. Even though Yourcenar’s historical research on Hadrian is said to be thorough, I would not classify the book as pure historical fiction. Indeed, readers of historical fiction might be disappointed, as ‘Memoirs of Hadrian’ is rather on the philosophical side. 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. Wherever your chosen haunt is – go there with this book, settle down, take your time, and lose yourself in Hadrian’s memoirs.

  • Eric
    2019-02-11 21:18

    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. 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. All these writers enjoy something in common, “jusqu’au sombre plaisir d’un coeur mélancolique”: a sense of perfection and a faith in human dignity, combined with a tragic apprehending of the human situation, and its nearness to the Abyss. Add Memoirs of Hadrian to Cyril Connolly’s Latinate, festal-funereal list, on which it will manifest the novel (where’s Madame Bovary?), and perhaps biography, a mode Yourcenar at once avoids and transcendently augments. Like Lolita, Memoirs of Hadrian is a model of the sustained and elaborate testamentary récit, the world told in a dying voice. Warrior-peacemaker, austere sensualist, skeptic/cultist, philosopher/mythomane, avid connoisseur of all gods and rites, of humanity’s myriad senses of the sacred, the mobile and various emperor Hadrian, “that man alone and yet closely bound with all being,” is an ideal humanist mouthpiece, Yourcenar his learned animator and prefect of “that imperial guard which poets and humanists mount in relay around any great memory”: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. Hadrian wants to know where flesh becomes soul, how the experienced body becomes the soul’s knowledge and transport: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.Reading the swimmer to the wave, and another passage in which Hadrian pictures the body’s sleep as a time when the soul is washed back out into an unconscious ocean of all being, I was reminded of similar imagery in a novel I read a few weeks ago, A Single Man, whose author Christopher Isherwood and protagonist George Falconer were, like Hadrian, aging lovers of boyish partners, though only George and Hadrian were deprived of Antinous. I took down Isherwood’s Diaries and in 1955, “I read Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel about Hadrian, which bored me at the time, but which I now feel has penetrated quite deeply into my consciousness at some other level.” Both novelists explore the consciousness of the dying animal; and read again, George’s drunken Forsterian Only Connect outburst shows its affinity with Hadrian’s faith in sensual receptivity and earthy rootedness as passageways to other states. Borges once wrote that the powerful recurrence of human dreams is greater miracle than any of the biblical levitations or apparitions.

  • Jessica
    2019-02-09 21:40

    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 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.... which, you know, I appreciate. 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: "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." The book is about that moment. 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." But that's okay. I've got a library card. Apparently, as I'm learning, that gets me close enough.

  • Pantelis
    2019-01-26 19:29

    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...

  • Warwick
    2019-02-14 17:41

    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 the shore, so I begin to notice the contours of my death.]This passage sets out perfectly both the book's theme – mortality – and its method - a melancholy prose style whose brilliance can sometimes take your breath away.I was hugely impressed by Mémoires d'Hadrien. 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: his passages on the immortality of buildings represent a great meditation on architecture to be set beside that of Hugo in Notre-Dame de Paris.Ces murs que j'étaie sont encore chauds du contact de corps disparus; des mains qui n'existent pas encore caresseront ces fûts de colonnes.[These walls that I prop up are still warm from contact with bodies that have disappeared; hands which do not yet exist will caress the trunks of these columns.]Ideas of death being transcended through architecture are followed by sketches of deaths variously from old age, natural disaster, war, and suicide. 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: as emperor, the people consider him literally to be a god, something which, characteristically, he tries to find useful:Loin de voir dans ces marques d'adoration un danger de folie ou de prépotence pour l'homme qui les accepte, j'y découvrais un frein, l'obligation de se dessiner d'après quelque modèle éternel, d'associer à la puissance humaine une part de suprème sapience. Être dieu oblige en somme à plus de vertus qu'être empereur.[Far from seeing in these signs of adoration a risk of madness or authoritarianism for the man who accepts them, I found them to be a restraint – the obligation to model oneself on some eternal prototype, to link human power to an element of supreme wisdom. Being a god, in short, calls for more virtues than being an emperor.]Part of the impetus for the novel, Yourcenar has said, was a fascination with this period of history when belief in the Olympian gods had disappeared but before Christianity had really emerged – a brief moment, in Flaubert's phrase, when man alone existed. 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.Mais le poids de l'amour, comme celui d'un bras tendrement posé au travers d'une poitrine, devenait peu à peu lourd à porter.[But the weight of love, like an arm draped tenderly across one's chest, became little by little heavy to bear.]It's in this character of Antinous that the themes of death and love are united – and the reason, perhaps, that they are so united in Hadrian's mind. It's a union that means Hadrian is reluctant to ignore death or pass over its unsavoury features: he's determined to consider it as fully as he can, and understand what he himself is facing.Cette mort serait vaine si je n'avais pas le courage de la regarder en face, de m'attacher à ces réalités du froid, du silence, du sang coagulé, des membres inertes, que l'homme recouvre si vite de terre [...].[This death would be in vain if I did not have the courage to look at it head-on, to concentrate on these realities of cold, of silence, of coagulated blood, of inert limbs, that man recovers so quickly from the earth.]In a way the whole book is an attempt to do this, only somehow it's not half as depressing as I just made it sound. On the contrary, it's life-affirming, moving and thought-provoking – and built from a prose style which, on occasion, looks something like genius.

  • Carmo
    2019-01-20 19:34

    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 os anos de interregno, olho-o de longe com melancolia e desgosto por não se achar capaz de tão grandioso desafio.”Mergulho no desespero de um escritor que não escreve”Em Dezembro de 1948 mergulhou com renovado frenesim na vida do Imperador e deu-lhe voz própria.”Retrato de uma voz. Se preferi escrever estas Memórias de Adriano na primeira pessoa foi para dispensar o mais possível qualquer intermediário, ainda que fosse eu própria. Desde aquele momento nada mais me interessou senão rescrever aquele livro, custasse o que custasse.”Fazer uma reconstituição desta natureza com tão grande distância temporal, exigiu-lhe inúmeras viagens, pesquisas, comparações, conversas com historiadores, médicos, analistas, um trabalho moroso e extenuante com vista a compilar o maior numero possível de factos, e tentar conciliá-los a todos no final, sem demasiados lapsos.A regra do jogo era: ”aprender tudo, ler tudo, informar-se de tudo...”“Fazer o melhor que puder. Refazer. Retocar ainda imperceptívelmente esse retoque.”Foram 18 anos de trabalho obsessivo. Yourcenar, adoptou uma forma muito particular de escrita para este livro. Durante a noite ela escrevia e descrevia minuciosamente todas as cenas, todos os cenários criados. Na manhã seguinte queimava tudo e voltava a escrever, agora, só o resumo daquilo que havia feito na noite anterior. Assim, este livro é a concentração dos registos de milhares de páginas, o melhor, a polpa, o néctar, chamem-lhe o que quiserem, é o crème de la crème. E é o que faz com que este livro seja uma proeza apaixonante sobre um dos períodos mais calmos do Império Romano.Quanto ao Imperador, a Adriano, leiam: é um relato de uma vida magnifica, uma reflexão pungente e fascinante. Nada que eu possa dizer fará justiça a esta escrita intensa e sensível, a esta melodia composta com perfeição.

  • Aubrey
    2019-01-31 20:28

    An OdeHadrian. 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-sevenNear two millennia separate life and chronicle, the event from the researchThe 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 many, Hadrian, chosen here by virtue of the crossroadsThe intersection of your life with the death of Roman GodsAnd the struggles of Christianity. Nothing more. Nothing less.Within this theological miasma you have yourself, your youthWith its glorious physicality, its flights of poetic fancy, itsSlow dissolve into the machinations of power hid behind robesand other panderings at officiated strivings. You came, you saw,you succeeded in the name of Greece and the sense of restraintof one with the broadest stretch of conquered stretch of landThe 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 dabblingIn realms of indulgence rich in form and thought, spread wide for your perusal.Are you happy, Hadrian? By this clemency, this audacityTo reinterpret your mind and all its efforts,Your fate well suited to its Age, where self-awarenessWas afforded expression on the widest field at your world’s disposal.An Empire, no less. Upon which the author has seen fitTo grant you interests in a multitude of thoughtful meanderingsOf Art, Culture, Philosophy, love of the flesh and thrill of the hunt,The Desire for Discovery framed within the Contentment of a ConquerorConnoisseur 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 imposedBy your calcified structures, an inevitability of lifeThat 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 OtherAmongst the Jews, the Orientals, the Christians, the Slaves,The Barbarians. Would anything less than a swallowing in entiretyOf your triumphs, your feats, your biases that grew in comfortAmong the profound insight that I admit to admiring, enrage?You are dead and gone, Hadrian. You were contentIn 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 yearsHere, in this casual form, after your death.Where is the rest of your world? Where else does the modern senseFind such material, such scholarship, such vaulted musings,Such ease of access by way of a field long cherished byThe 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 survivesIn 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 countryTo crippling debt and moral ruin. You would cry, I think,And rage, and scream, belying all your talk of peaceWith self and soul listed in this fictional pages,If you were here to see it. The current Age has no patienceFor 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 isBy the breach of centuries, the warp of fiction, the woof of translation.I find worth in your thoughts, mongering as they areIn 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 hellIs paved in well-intentioned displays of power unrestrictedBy 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 youAnd 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 lifeFor 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 deathIs not mine to make, not with my veins of cynical forbearance,And lack of interest. You were born, Hadrian, and through fate and fortuneFound yourself in a seat of power, made your mark on land and recordBy 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 forthIn all your good, and all your ill, by minds who see fit to do so.For better or for worse, Hadrian, Publius Aeilus Traianus Hadrianus Augustus,You are known.

  • peiman-mir5 rezakhani
    2019-02-12 17:21

    ‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، <مارگریت یورسنار> نویسندهٔ فرانسوی، در سالِ 1951 میلادی، این کتاب، یعنی "خاطرات هادریان" یا "خاطراتِ آدرین" را منتشر کرد‎عزیزانم، <هادریان> از سالِ 117 تا 138 میلادی، بر تختِ امپراتوری روم نشست و بر روم و دیگر سرزمینها حکمرانی کرد... حال داستانِ این کتاب، اینگونه آغاز میشود که هادریان در بسترِ بیماری میباشد و در حالِ مرگ است و خاطراتِ خود را برایِ <مارکوس> جوانِ 17ساله که همچون خودِ هادریان، اسپانیایی نژاد است، تعریف میکند... لازم است بگویم این جوانِ 17 ساله، همان <مارکوس اورلیوس>، مشهور است که از سالِ 161 تا 180 میلادی امپراتور روم بود‎هادریان در خاطراتش از زندگی پُر فراز و نشیبش سخن میگوید.. از بلند پروازی هایِ خویش میگوید که چگونه بیشترِ زمانِ عمرش را در مرزهایِ امپراتوری در حالِ جنگ بوده است... او میگوید، زمانی که در میدانِ نبرد نبوده، بیشتر زمانِ خویش و نیرویش را صرفِ عشقبازی میکرده است... او نردبانِ موفقیت و پیشرفت را پله پله بالا رفته است و تقریباً در 20 سالی که بر تختِ امپراتوری تکیه زده است، در سرزمینهایِ دور دست و بخصوص سرزمینهایِ شرقی، به ادارهٔ حکومت پرداخته و یک لحظه نیز، آسوده خاطر نبوده است‎هادریان زمانی امپراتور روم بود که یونانِ باستان، قدرت و تمدنِ پیشرفته اش رو به زوال و نابودی بود و مسیحیت همچون ویروس و بیماریِ خطرناک در آن سرزمین در حالِ شیوع بود‎درکل در این داستان، شما با ضعف و بیماری جسمی و فکری انسان، شهوت، قدرت، مرگ، خودکشی، جنگ، عشق و هوس و ... سر و کار دارید که تمامی آنها در تمامِ دوران ها، همراهِ انسانهای بزرگ و کوچک بوده است و کماکان نیز همراهِ آنها میباشد------------------------------------------‎امیدوارم این ریویو، در جهتِ شناختِ این کتاب، مفید بوده باشه‎<پیروز باشید و ایرانی>

  • Tony
    2019-01-24 00:28

    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.’s doubtful President Obama will be inviting me any time soon for that afternoon beer, and, if he did, I would not be so presumptuous as to press a book in his hands. But, you know, if he asked, I would make that pained face like I do, pause dramatically, and with a grave “Perhaps it’s not too late” offer him The Memoirs of Hadrian. For, after all, it doesn’t matter if our leaders are young or old, black or white, male or female; it doesn’t matter if they like a little oral in the oval or can’t pronounce ‘nuclear’. 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? In her Reflections following this novel, Marguerite Yourcenar explains, “I fell to making, and then re-making, this portrait of a man who was almost wise.” (emphasis in original).Almost.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. Even: let execution suffice when execution after torture seems, you know, excessive. If you two can’t play nice, well, I’ll build a wall.He watched his subjects come to touch his hand, believing his ‘divinity’ would be a cure of disease or illness; and he gave them hope, and sometimes cure, yet knowing that his own body could not be saved.This is a Novel in Memoir form. That’s hard to imagine, I suppose. But there are epistolary novels and novels in diary form, so why not this? It’s better than History. 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. Still, it doesn’t feel like a novel. That’s not a criticism. It’s just that the scholarship is, frankly, breathtaking. 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.This is also a love story, though certainly not for Hadrian and his much younger, ‘arranged’ wife. 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 found myself pausing often at Yourcenar’s aphoristic tone. 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.----- ----- ----- -----I almost didn’t write this review because I read Kelly’s, which is one of the Great reviews, here or elsewhere -- Memoirs of Hadrian is a meditation of finding a pile of pottery shards and deciding what to do with them. And I read Aubrey’s Ode to this book, itself a work of art. But this isn’t a competition. Right, Hadrian?

  • Marita
    2019-02-12 16:35

    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.

  • Noce
    2019-01-23 21:29

    ”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, non sarò né la prima né l'ultima a dirvi che quello che ho tra le mani è un libro maestoso.Mi ha fatto rimpiangere di non avere una casa tutta mia, per potermelo godere la sera, seduta in poltrona e sorseggiando un bicchiere di rum. E' un libro che concilia l'anima. L'avvolge e la riscalda sotto il lume vivido della sincerità.Tra tutti i passi che mi sono trascritta (e sono tanti) ce n'è uno che rcchiude a parer mio un insegnamento fondamentale.”Ero prossimo ai quarant'anni. Se fossi morto a quel momento, di me non sarebbe rimasto null'altro che un nome, tra una serie di alti funzionari, e un'iscrizione in greco in onore dell'arconte di Atene. In seguito, tutte le volte che ho visto sparire un uomo giunto a metà della sua vita, del quale il pubblico ritiene di poter valutare esattamente i successi e le sconfitte, mi sono ricordato che a quell'età io non esistevo ancora se non per me e per pochissimi amici, i quali certamente in qualche momento dubitavano di me come ne dubitavo io di me stesso. Ho compreso che ben pochi realizzano se stessi prima di morire. E ho giudicato con maggiore pietà le loro opere interrotte."Adriano era un uomo. Punto.Non aveva superpoteri, ma pregi e difetti come tutti. Il suo sogno è stato quello di realizzare se stesso. La gestione del suo vasto Impero è andata di pari passo con l'evoluzione del suo sogno.Qualcuno di cui non ricordo il nome ha detto che “c'è chi passa alla Storia, e c'è chi passa e basta”.Adriano è passato alla Storia comportandosi da uomo usando le sue virtù come poteva e facendo buon uso dei suoi vizi. Ai giorni nostri l'inclinazione è più quella di fingersi grandi uomini e passare. Di solito dalla padella alla brace. O dalla sala alla porta di servizio.Impareremo prima o poi?

  • knig
    2019-01-19 20:18

    ‘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 of the cause-effect modality which seems to have informed Hadrian’s ethos.One of the ‘Five Good Emperors’, (Machiavelli, 1503, who noted all five succeeded as ‘adopted’ sons and seemed to rule more wisely and judiciously than those of ‘royal blood’), Hadrian was a ‘humanist’ and philhellene, interested more in art, architecture, public governance and jurisprudence rather than war, despite his formidable military campaigning. Of his twenty years as emperor, he barely engaged in military battle, and spent scarcely five in Rome: the rest were travelling throughout the empire, mostly overseeing construction and consolidation projects, collecting art and writing poetry.Fertile grounds indeed for Yourcenar’s indomitable quest to search out the humanist-philosopher, who endaimonologically refines and consolidates the qualia of Rome’s greatest cultural achievements to pinnacled Greco-Roman heights. ‘Rome....was needed for the full realisation of what was for Greece only an admirable idea. Plato had written the Republic and glorified the Just, but we were the ones who were striving to make the State a machine fit to serve man....The word philanthropy was Greek,but we are the ones who are working to change the wretched conditions of the slave’.A beautiful acclamation of Rome significant as ‘doer’ whereas Greece was Rodin’s ‘thinker’: and if Hadrian did not serve in terms of philosophical originality and advancement, surely his contribution, of making concrete the ‘ideal’, was no less an achievement. For what is a strategist without his tactician?I wonder if the intervening years of relative peace devoted to the pursuit of public works did not open up a lacunae for Hadrian, allowing him to indulge the personal to an extraordinary extent. Who doesn’t know of his eromenos Antinous, a boy of twelve who becomes, effectively 50 year old Hadrian’s consort . His (debated) suicide at nineteen at the river Nile sparks Hadrian into occult and vainglorious endeavours to deify the boy, thus breaching some unspoken protocol about keeping the personal ‘private’ when you are emperor. Yourcenar handles this episode magnificently. At a moment in between Gods, when Hadrian conceptualises he is divine himself, as any other man might be, the issues of personal responsibility become acute and forefrontal. If human qualia takes on divine proportion, and if that qualia is underpinned by reveration of youth specifically, then its understandable if at nineteen Atinous conceives his currency as spent: by sacrificing himself in full bloom of youth he thus ensures his perpetuality ad infinitum: and perhaps it was this notion which spurred Hadrian into ‘conceptually’ immortalising him. Wise, is Yourcenar.Not too long ago VS Naipaul made a big hue and cry about how women authors haven’t got it in them to write anything more scopic than domestic dramas and fluffy bunny romcoms: need to find that man and smack him over the head with this book.

  • Algernon
    2019-02-07 00:18

    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, liberty and justice will here and there regain again the meaning which we have tried to give them. Not all our books will perish, nor our statues, if broken, lie unrepaired; other domes and other pediments will arise from our domes and pediments; some few men will think and work and feel as we have done, and I venture to count upon such continuators, placed irregularly throughout the centuries, and upon this kind of intermittent immortality. Margaret Yourcenar started working on the novel before, during and in the aftermath of a global war. This collapse of the social and moral structures may explain why she has chosen as her subject of historical study the life of the Roman emperor Hadrian, and why she considers this man still relevant from a contemporary point of view. It is not enough to pinpoint what is wrong to the world and to remark on how history repeats itself. We also need role models, souls bright like lighthouses to guide our wandering ships to safe harbour. Between the multitude of Gods of antiquity and the inflexible dogma of the Middle Ages, Yourcenar positions Hadrian as a brief triumph of reason, compassion and tolerance. This flame of humanism that was born with the Greek civilization, Hadrian rekindles and pays it forward to later generations. These ancient beliefs and atitudes are easy to discern in the later ideals of the Renaissance and of the French Revolution. Yourcenar gives credit to the correspondence of Gustave Flaubert for the inspiration to start the novel: "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." A great part of my life was going to be spent in trying to define, and then to portray, that man existing alone and yet closely bound to all being. Some of his contemporaries deified Hadrian, others condemned him as a bloody dictator or a degenerate sensualist. Margaret Yourcear perused the available sources to extract from them the man behind the public facade. A regular historian would be satisfied with compiling and organizing the information in these primary sources. Yourcenar wants to go one step further, and to find the universal truths that define and explain the life of the emperor.Once I had thought chiefly of the man of letters, the traveller, the poet, the lover; none of that had faded, to be sure, but now for the first time I could see among all those figures, standing out with great clarity of line, the most official and yet the most hidden form of all, that of the emperor. The fact of having lived in a world which is toppling around us had taught me the importance of the Prince. She choses a confessional mode for her exposition: the elderly Hadrian is writing a letter to his chosen succesor, mixing concerns about his legacy with recollections of the important waystations in his journey, administrative decisions with intimate details of his private life. The comparison with the quest of Proust to recapture 'les temps perdus' is not at all far-fetched: Hadrian is establishing a similar relationship between the personal and the universal, between the inner life of the mind and the outer experience of the senses. In our day, when introspection tends to dominate literary forms, the historical novel, or what may for convenience's sake be called by that name, must take the plunge into time recaptured, and must fully establish itself within some inner world. Since the author gives us the key to her novel, let's look not at the historical events in the life of Hadrian, but at his convinctions and at his aspirations. Law and order comes first, a policy made urgent by the recklessness and te wasteful management of his predecessors who were more interested in the glory of military conquest (Trajan) or in debauchery (Nero, Caligula). Although renowned as a military leader and admired throughout the army, as soon as he became emperor, Hadrian instaurated a policy of peace through strength, refusing plans to expand the empire, negotiating peace with former enemies and building fortresses and defensive walls on the existing borders. Inside the empire, he revised the code of laws and administered justice directly, in an authorian manner that accepted few dissenting opinions.It mattered little to me that the accord obtained was external, imposed from without and perhaps temporary; I knew that good like bad becomes a routine, that the temporary tends to endure, that what is external permeates to the inside, and that the mask, given time, comes to be the face itself. Since hatred, stupidity, and delirium have lasting effects, I saw no reason why good will, clarity of mind and just practice would not have their effects, too. Hadrian's moral compass comes from the stoic tradition of Republican Rome, informed by the humanist philosophy of ancient Greece. Before engaging in his military career, Hadrian was a scholar with a particular interest in the Hellenistic culture. Athens will be more of a home to him than Rome, and he will invest both money and energy in revitalising the city. 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. Two rulings in particular have impressed me from the examples of Hadrian's administration of justice. The first could be still aplied today in regard to the future trades and stock market speculators in basic goods, like food and fuel: No law is too strict which makes for reduction of the countless intermediaries who swarm in our cities, an obscene, fat and paunchy race, whispering in every tavern, leaning on every counter, ready to undermine any policy which is not to their immediate advantage. The second ruling shows a man weel ahead of his time in the relation between sexes, arguing in favour of treating women as equals in the face of the law: The law should differ as little as possible from accustomed practice, so I have granted women greater liberty to administer or to bequeath their fortunes, and to inherit. I have insisted that no woman should be married without her consent; this form of legalized rape is as offensive as any other. An oversimplification of the course of history separates the leaders into builders and destroyers, with the lion's share of attention given to the latter. Hadrian belongs firmly in the former category. Some of his projects are easy to include here: the defensive walls and the forts he established, the new cities he founded, the temples and the libraries he sponsored. Others actions are more subtle : the revised legislation, the promotion of adminstrators and military leaders on merits, the poets, philosophers and artists that he gathered at his court. In his long letter to his succesor, both a confessional and a manual for leadership, Hadrian search for immortality leads away from the material things and into spiritual strength. I admitted that it was indeed vain to hope for an eternity for Athens and for Rome which is accorded neither to objects nor men, and which the wisest among us deny even to the gods. These subtle and complex forms of life, these civilizations comfortably installed in their refinements of ease and art, the very freedom of mind to seek and to judge, all this depended upon countless rare chances, upon conditions almost impossible to bring about, and none of which could be expected to endure. The greatness of this man comes from his clarity of vision that, faced with the inevitability of defeat, refuses to give in to entropy, and continues to raise his barricades against the massing barbarians at the borders. The founding of libraries was like constructing more public granaries, amassing reserves against a spiritual winter which by certain signs, in spite of myself, I see ahead. In a similar vein, Hadrian urges his heir and his countrymen to preserve the heritage of past generations:... it would take only a few wars, and the misery that follows them, or a single period of brutality or savagery under a few bad rulers to destroy forever the ideas passed down with the help of these frail objects in fiber and ink. Each man fortunate enough to benefit to some degree from this legacy of culture seemed to me responsible for protecting it and holding it in trust for the human race. These words are prophetic, and I only have to give the example of the recent war in Iraq and of the destruction of countless priceless manuscripts and artefacts in the looting of the libraries and museums to argue the relevance of Hadrian's words.Perhaps the most controversial of Hadrian's actions is the cruel repression of the rebellion in Israel, towards the end of his rule. As emperor, Hadrian also fulfills the role of head of the Roman religion. In this role, he had consistently encouraged tolerance and acceptance of other views and other opinions, arguing that all different religions are related, and one intelligent man can easily see the similarities between Assirian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman deities, that it is better to find common ground than to fight over the merits of one particular godling over another. His policy of integration and peaceful coexistence stumbled when he tried to modernize the city of Jerusalem, an early alarm signal of the kind of monoteistic and intransigent religious spirit that will come to dominate the coming centuries, extending from Judaism to Christianity and Islamism: No people but Israel has the arrogance to confine truth wholly within the narrow limits of a single conception of the divine, thereby insulting the manifold nature of the Deity, who contains all; no other god has inspired his worshippers with disdain and hatred for those who pray at different altars. I was only the more anxious to make Jerusalem a city like the others, where several races and several beliefs could live in peace; but I was wrong to forget that in any combat between fanaticism and common sense the latter has rarely the upper hand. As a counterweight to this coming scourge of civilization, the solution envisioned by Hadrian is to make Rome eternal not in its stones or in its secular borders, but in spirit: Rome would be perpetuated herself in the least of the towns where magistrates strive to demand just weight from the merchants, to clean and light the streets, to combat disorder, slackness, superstition and injustice, and to give broader and fairer interpretation to the laws. She would endure to the end of the last city built by man. Already, we have moved from historical events to a higherr philosophical debate: civilization against survival of the fittest, man against fate, the personal against the social. Yourcenar is not content to touch on the greater themes: she presents to us Hadrian the lover, the poet, the disillusioned dreamer who refuses to give up his ideals, the lonely ruler who has been abandoned by his friends and lovers and who now balances his minor victories with a long series of mistakes and regrets.Already certain portions of my life are like dismantled rooms of a palace too vast for an impoverished owner to occupy in its entirety. A certain type of reader will search through these memoirs looking for the spicy bits of gossip and scandalous behaviour, for the corruption of underage ephebs and other signs of moral decadence. After all, Hadrian created a whole religious cult after the death of his favorite, Antinous. For me, the introspective fragments where Hadrian confesses his secret love and his lustful yearnings are the best part of the novel, the prose transmuting into pure poetry: Of all our games, love's play is the only one which threatens to unsettle the soul, and is also the only one in which the player has to abandon himself to the body's ecstasy. To put reason aside is not indispensable for a drinker, but the lover who leaves reason in control does not follow his god to the end. The rationalist and the humanist admits defeat in matters of the heart, turning to astrologers, oracles and secret societies in order to investigate the deeper recesses of the psyche: Popular tradition has not been wrong in regarding love as a form of initiation, one of the points of encounter of the secret with the sacred. Hadrian wrote some verse by his own hand, and I didn't bother to check if Yourcenar quotes him or lets her own inspiration guide her in the portrait of this extraordinary man. One last quote should be enough to illustrate my argument that the Memoirs are more than a historical novel and cross the genre borders to merit a place among the enduring classics of world literature: The landscape of my days appears to be composed, like mountainous regions, of varied materials heaped up pell-mell. There I see my nature, itself composite, made up of equal parts of instinct and training. Here and there protrude the granite peaks of the inevitable, but all about is rubble from the landslips of chance. I strive to retrace my life to find in it some plan, following a vein of lead, or of gold, or the course of some subterranean stream, but such devices are only tricks of perspective in my memory. From time to time, in an ecounter or an omen, or in a particular series of happenings, I think I recognize the working of fate, but too many paths lead nowhere at all, and too many sums add up to nothing. To be sure, I perceive in this diversity and disorder the presence of a person; but his form seems nearly always to be shaped by the pressure of circumstances; his features are blurred, like a face reflected in water. This was not an easy review to compose, as I feel that looking at isolated bricks detracts one from seeing the monumental edifice built through the efforts of a single man (a case of not seeing the forest because you are too close to the trees). A more elegant solution is to make a one phrase review, to capture the essence of the emperor and of his heritage in a simple and elegant form, something Yourcenar can be relied upon to deliver: I felt responsible for sustaining and increasing the beauty of the world.

  • Stephen P
    2019-01-20 00:42

    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 borders as they stand. Conquering will no longer be thought of as progress. Greed and power will no longer interpret the lives of Rome's people. He will do his best to remove or at least lessen court intrigue. The quality of peoples lives will lift above pure survival and the crushing halt by the rich and powerful. He tells this as an old man in a letter, filled with as many of his defects and failures as victories, to the younger man who will eventually replace him. This is not so much a confession as a gift of an extraordinary man and mind.Yourcenar delivers this threaded biography with fiction in clear and polished prose. A style both eloquent and succinct. In the early stages the camera is not pulled in close but as a reader it was closer. The closest I had ever been in a book to being within a character's mind. His thoughts inhabited mine, mine his. Lines shifted then disappeared. Larger than escape to a different time and being a different person this is what fiction reaches for and where Yourcenar, in my experience has come closest. As we move into the battle scenes of the pre-emperor Hadrian's wanderings the camera appears and backs away a moderate distance in this first person account. Possibly the larger scope was necessary but for me it was disappointing more than jarring.This did not account for the loss of two stars. The camera did not shoot their shedding, the fading starlight glow. The dimming occurred within the breathless perfection of Yourcenar's prose. Can something be too beautiful? Traveled beyond our perceptions and sensual limits? But what if beauty is the steady sheen of a transparent glacial sheet of ice showing no permutations, shrills, edges or scrapes? Its uniformity and consistency if stretched too far and becoming the whole can eventually evolve into a deterrent. I believe Yourcenay may have seen this as a goal. If so, well accomplished. As a reader I needed more bends and breaks accentuating the bleed of the content without sacrificing the polish of the prose. Tempo, rhythm, begged to vary as called for by the story's events. Cringe and callous needed to penetrate the celibate style in places where showing them through changes of tone and verbiage heartbeat, though as infrequent as need be, would add a potency, where I might cut my hand turning a page.Beauty can lull if not varied. Despite in the last part we move again much closer within Hadrian's mind, by then I was worn out by the pristine sheen and gloss. Ongoing perfection is for me an imperfection in itself. I never considered this problem, at least in literature. Someday I will re-read this book that is so highly regarded by so many GR reviewers who I respect, to see if I missed the tread, rifts, that a good cleaning of my eye glasses might have helped me to notice.