Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Top ten fictional takes on real lives

Will Eaves’s Murmur and Alex Pheby’s Lucia are the joint winners of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness prize for small presses. At the Guardian they each tagged five fictional takes on real lives. One of Eaves’s picks:
Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

On the brink of death, the Roman emperor Hadrian writes to his successor, Marcus Aurelius, about his life, his victories, and his philosophy: a proto-stoicism of self-critical candour that values stability above triumph. It is this political sangfroid, the reverence for ancient ideals of culture and conservation ranged against the tumult of events themselves, that gives the emotional centre of the book – Hadrian’s relationship with the Greek boy Antinous – its surprising depth. Yourcenar’s research is fully absorbed, and the lapidary style, learned but intimate, evokes a monumental figure in glimpses, or perhaps cries. Above all, said Yourcenar, her novel was to be thought of as the “portrait of a voice”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Memoirs of Hadrian is among Alix Christie's ten favorite historical novels, Rabih Alameddine's six favorite novels, John Mullan's ten best emperors in literature, and Teju Cole's top 10 novels of solitude.

--Marshal Zeringue