Marguerite Yourcenar, extravagance recognised
The election of Marguerite Yourcenar to the French Academy in 1980 was widely commented. The controversy was caused by her free lifestyle, sexual inversion and her American citizenship. The size of her work, published in the prestigious Pléiade editions, with its male characters, the Roman emperor Hadrian and the alchemist Zeno, both splendidly show the fate of a man struggling with issues of his time and reveal the personality of the writer. A futile battle against nature and sexual inversion, clarity of vision, curiosity of the world satisfied by numerous travels and tireless study of historical documents, as well as self-improvement and faith give her work an individual and universal character. Her vast erudition and talent for writing enabled her to cross the threshold of an institution which had been a guardian of the French tradition since 1635. She used her inauguration speech as an opportunity to criticize the institution for underestimating the role of women in creating culture.