Bérengère Deprez



Marguerite Yourcenar and the USA. From Prophecy to Protest

Essai, Peter Lang, 2009

Although Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987) lived in the US for almost fifty years and became an American citizen in 1947, few people understand the influence her experiences in the United States had on her work. Biographers, critics and scholars have wrongly imagined she was untouched by her life in America – that she remained French to the core, linguistically isolated, culturally “pure”, that she never took an interest in the country where she lived for half her life.

Drawing on Yourcenar’s fiction and non-fiction works as well as on her voluminous archives at Harvard’s Houghton Library, this innovative analysis sheds new light on Yourcenar’s American inspirations and influences. A previously unreleased interview of Marguerite Yourcenar by the American journalist T.D. Allman, a letter from Marguerite Yourcenar written in English, an amazing photograph from Life magazine, and entries from her companion Grace Frick’s diaries are among the documents, mostly previously unpublished, which bring to life the American side of Yourcenar’s literature. This study also reveals that Marguerite Yourcenar, far being limited to French, had an outstanding mastery of the English language. It shows how, thanks to her understanding of America and its language, she became an authentic heir to a long and vivid American tradition: protest literature.

« This is a very welcome contribution to the debate on the real effect of the United States on Yourcenar’s life and thought, a good read on a fascinating subject which critics have often treated dismissively. Future scholarship will be obliged to weigh Bérengère Deprez’s arguments and evidence seriously, and thank her for her clearheaded thoroughness. »

Brian Gill, University of Calgary

« Bérengère Deprez s’attaque à une autre icône de nos lettres. Cette universitaire belge attachée à l’UCL, romancière par ailleurs, est, avec Michèle Goslar, la plus grande spécialiste de Yourcenar dans nos contrées. Une bourse de la fondation Fulbright lui a permis d’approfondir à Harvard les relations de l’auteur de Feux avec les Etats-Unis dont elle a acquis la nationalité et où elle a coulé, sur une île au large du Connecticut, ses jours les plus sereins. Son livre est riche et composite, comprend un entretien inédit et montre combien l’exil américain a favorisé l’évolution de la pensée de l’auteur « from prophecy to protest ». Car Deprez a écrit son livre en un anglais maîtrisé et clair, abordable par les usagers de la « lingua franca » que nous sommes en train de devenir malgré nous. »

Jacques De Decker, Le Soir, supplément livres du vendredi 27 novembre 2009