Greg's review of Ehrman's Forged
Receiving Testimony

Memoirs of Hadrian

Memoirs of HadrianMemoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This work really is remarkable, and for the reasons that others have stated. You feel as if you are reading the actual memoirs of Hadrian. Yourcenar has succeeded at a great effort of imagination and literary skill, which could have easily been trite, sentimental, overwrought, or any number of other failings. But the book is none of these.

And, in the process, it is a lovely exposition of myriad themes of human life, particularly facing death.

Of course I was moved by Hadrian's relationship with Antinous, an archetype and fantasy for gay men since. The novel is never lurid and barely erotic (I would have enjoyed a little more of that). In fact, at times one is disturbed by the aging Hadrian's reflections upon his lost love. Incredibly one gets the sense of the story being filtered through years of grief, longing, and reflection, and not the immediate passions of their time together. Disturbing in that Hadrian presents it as a great love, as it is romantically remembered, but the details he records don't seem like great love as I would consider it. I even wonder if Hadrian knew real love, or only knew he had missed it when Antinous was dead. Of course, this is really fiction, so who knows?!

The final moments when he is nearing his death are poignant, and I found myself deeply moved.

Though a visit to Hadrian's villa had not been in my upcoming travel plans, maybe I will have to change that.

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