Memoirs of Hadrian

Memoirs of Hadrian

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Author: Marguerite Yourcenar

Translator: Grace Frick

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Staff Pick! Sam says…

An oldie but a goodie, and one which I only encountered for the first time this year. Hadrian, the third of the so-called ‘Five Good Emperors’, ruled the Roman Empire at the height of its power at the end of the first century. He supposedly wrote a memoir, which was lost to time. In the 1940s Yournecar attempted to imagine what this book might have looked like, and this novel is the result. I was blown away. It is a breathtaking work of imaginative empathy; a double feat in that she not only imagines what might have mattered to a man who lived two millennia ago, but how he would have wanted to be remembered. At the heart of it is a tragic story of queer love, and the excesses of grief made possible by having the resources of the world at his disposal. Beautiful, haunting and strange.