A posthumous collection of essays that, as in Dear Departed (1991), again reveal the late French Academy member's exceptionally wide range of interests: forceful opinions on everything from the books of Carlos Castaneda to the wearing of fur coats fill this slender, often arcane, but occasionally illuminating volume. Translated and occasionally reworked in collaboration with Walter Kaiser near the end of Yourcenar's life (1903-87), many of the best pieces here confront the issues of time's passage and the nature of life and death. In ""On Some Lines from the Venerable Bede,"" Yourcenar, discussing the introduction of Christianity to the British people, becomes captivated by a description of life as ""the flight of a sparrow"" through a great fire-lit hall while storms rage outside, and suggests that this image also evokes the human mind. In the title essay, she meditates on the transformative effects of time, nature, and the quirks of human judgment on the fates of ancient Greek statues as they return, over cons, to their primal mineral state. In ""The Nobility of Failure,"" Yourcenar departs from relating instances of ritual suicide in Japan to explore the heroic potential of death and defeat. Profound meditations from a woman near her own death--nearly buried beneath a number of leas worthy topics and treatments, certainly, but worth unearthing nevertheless.