Both an exploration of character and a meditation on history, Marguerite Yourcenar's classic novel, Memoirs of Hadrian, has received international acclaim since its initial publication in France in 1951.
Written in the form of a testamentary letter from the emperor Hadrian to his successor, the youthful Marcus Aurelius, the work is as extraordinary for its psychological depth as for its accurate reconstruction of the second century of our era. In it, Yourcenar reimagines Hadrian's arduous boyhood, his triumphs and reversals, and finally, as emperor, his reordering of a worn-torn world, writing with the imaginative insight of a great writer of the twentieth century while crafting a prose style as elegant as those of the Latin stylists of Hadrian's own time.
"A classic . . . The entire is exquisitely poised."—George Steiner, The New Yorker
"A singular, and singularly beautiful, novel whose theme is the interaction of great power, great mind, and great love: of mastery and vulnerability."—Shirley Hazzard
"Yourcenar's prose [is] beautiful. What made [this author] remarkable, however, was not so much her style as the quality of her mind . . . If you want to know what 'ancient Roman' really means, in terms of war and religion and love and parties, read Memoirs of Hadrian . . . No other document takes us so deeply into the pre-Christian mind . . . Yourcenar gathers not just the round-cheeked boys and the fire festivals but also the less glamorous materials—the tax abatements, the judicial reforms—into sentences that throb and glow like rising suns."—Joan Acocella, The New Yorker