"In her brilliant 'psychological novel and meditation on history,' Marguerite Yourcenar has written an imaginatively daring and artistically persuasive 'self-portrait' of Hadrian."--Orville Prescott --Review
Historical novel by Marguerite Yourcenar, published in 1951 as Memoires d'Hadrien. In the book, Yourcenar creates a vivid and historically accurate portrait of the 2nd-century Roman Empire under Hadrian's rule. The work is a fictional first-person narrative in the form of Hadrian's letters--mostly to his nephew Marcus Aurelius--written shortly before his death. Contemplative and analytical recollections of his accomplishments, his hopes for Rome, and his personal relationships, the letters reveal Hadrian to be a highly intelligent, often wise man, conscious of the great power he wields. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is an unlikely candidate to be on my list of the 5 best books I've ever read. But it is near the top of that list. An "autobiographical" account of a long-dead Roman emperor (not even one of the glamorous, or truly depraved ones), written by a 20th century Frenchwoman - who'd have thunk it? Other reviews here pay tribute to the depth of scholarship underpinning this book, as well as to Yourcenar's brilliant writing. But it would be wrong to pigeonhole the book as catering … more