Marguerite Yourcenar (8 June 1903 – 17 December 1987) was a Belgian novelist.
Yourcenar was born Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour in Brussels, Belgium to Michel Cleenewerck de Crayencour, of French aristocratic descent, and a Belgian mother who died ten days after her birth. She grew up in the home of her paternal grandmother.
Yourcenar's first novel, Alexis, was published in 1929. Her intimate companion at the time, a translator named Grace Frick, invited her to the United States, where she lectured in comparative literature in New York City and Sarah Lawrence College. Yourcenar was bisexual and she and Frick became lovers in 1937, and would remain so until Frick's death in 1979.
In 1951 she published, in France, the French-language novel Mémoires d'Hadrien, which she had been writing with pauses for a decade. The novel was an immediate success and met with great critical acclaim.
In this novel Yourcenar recreated the life and death of one of the great rulers of the ancient world, the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who writes a long letter to Marcus Aurelius, his successor and adoptive son. The Emperor meditates on his past, describing both his triumphs and his failures, his love for Antinous, and his philosophy. This novel has become a modern classic, a standard against which fictional recreations of Antiquity are measured.
Yourcenar was elected as the first female member of the Académie française, in 1980. One of the respected writers in French language, she published many novels, essays, and poems, as well as three volumes of memoirs.
Yourcenar lived much of her life at Petite Plaisance in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Petite Plaisance is now a museum dedicated to her memory.