Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0521-9744
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9668
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Marguerite Yourcenar, known as an author, is also the translator of about a dozen works. My purpose here is to trace the evolution of her oeuvre in the field of translation in relation to her literary output. I have divided the former into three distinct periods, the first of which covers the closing years of the 1930s, when Marguerite Yourcenar translated Virginia Woolf's The Waves and Henry James's What Maisie Knew. Her interest in these authors is to a large extent stylistic. On the other hand, the translation of Constantin Cavafy's poetry, which was begun during the same period, reflects the intimist themes to be found in Marguerite Yourcenar's early narratives {Alexis and the others), although she was then already seeking out other thematic sources. The translation was only published in 1958. It consequently falls within a second period: that of the "présentations critiques" (critical commentaries). These major efforts in translation {Présentation critique de Constantin Cavafy, La Couronne et la Lyre, Fleuve profonde, Sombre rivière) are marked by a manifest preoccupation with the aesthetic. But themes of a more universal character and engagement in the socio-political sphere also enter into the choice of the texts for translation (negro spirituals, Présentation critique d'Hortense Flexner). These translations were contemporaneous with the creation of Marguerite Yourcenar's most important novels, namely Mémoires d'Hadrien and L'OEuvre au Noir. The last of the three periods, the 1980s, finds her tackling far less ambitious projects, the function of which tends increasingly towards ethical communication. The only one of them that bears any resemblance to the "présentations critiques" is the essay on Yukio Mishima and the translation of Cinq Nô Modernes, assuming that these are to be considered as an ensemble. Here, as elsewhere, it also emerges that Marguerite Yourcenar is largely indifferent to the existence of other translations.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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