Dear Departed

Marguerite Yourcenar, Author, Maria Louise Ascher, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (346p) ISBN 978-0-374-13554-6
Part autobiography, but mostly family history, Yourcenar's (1903-1987) nuanced recollections evince the same lyrical precision and obsession with death that mark her work as novelist, essayist and playwright. Conjuring up her Belgian mother Fernande, who died a few months after giving birth to her in Brussels, the author denies that this sudden separation instilled a lifelong sense of loss and asserts that her nurse Barbara filled her mother's place in early childhood. Meanwhile, her French father Michel had mistresses who ``provided me with an ample share of motherly and sisterly relationships.'' It's all very French, but one senses a mechanism of denial at work. The complex narrative tracks dozens of ancestors from the French Revolution to the Resistance, unveiling sensual incompatibilities, family skeletons, tragedies and joys with the aid of private documents, oral traditions, historical sources and a novelist's restless imagination. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Paperback - 289 pages - 978-0-374-52367-1
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