TWO LIVES AND A DREAM by Marguerite Yourcenar

TWO LIVES AND A DREAM

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Readers of The Abyss and Memoirs of Hadrian will welcome this story and two novellas from the hand of the learned and gifted Yourcenar. ""An Obscure Man"" is the story of the life--and death--of one Nathanael, born early in the 17th century of Dutch parents living in Greenwich, England (the father is a worker in the shipyards, the mother a Puritan). Possessed of weak lungs and a lame leg, and unable to take up work in the shipyards, Nathanael instead is apprenticed to a schoolmaster, from whom he learns Latin and in whose books (including those of ""a certain Shakespeare,"" whose plays ""had been a success in their day""), after school hours, he is free to browse. Fearful that he has accidentally killed a man in a brawl, Nathanael stows away on an outbound ship, travels to the Caribbean, then to America (where he is shipwrecked and for some time lives with the wilderness settlers), and finally makes his way to Amsterdam, where he works as a proofreader in an uncle's printing shop, then later as valet in a rich household. Suffering from lung disease, he is sent as off-season caretaker to an empty hunting lodge on one of the Frisian Islands, and there, amid the sweep of wind and dune, he dies, believing that he ""would not be remembered any more than the insects of last summer."" ""A Lovely Morning"" provides a glimpse of the lite of Nathanael's half-illegitimate son Lazarus as, at age 12, he runs off with a troupe of English actors to play Rosaline in As You Like It; and, shifting scene and characters entirely, ""Anna, soror. . ."" is a carefully realized tale of incest between a brother and sister born of Spanish noble parents in Naples at the end of the tumultuous and piety-driven 16th century. The subtly crafted richness and quiet resonance of historical detail that readers of Yourcenar's work expect are here in full strength, and these lives of Nathanael and Anna should comfortably take their places beside those more famous lives of Hadrian and Zeno. Published in France in 1982, the present volume includes an afterward by the author describing the history of these pieces' composition--a history dating back as far as 1923 and 1925, when ""A Lovely Morning"" and ""Anna, soror. . ."" were first conceived and written.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0374520917
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux