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Southwood J. The first immortelle, ten years on. 1998.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://e-publications.une.edu.au/1959.11/6718
The first immortelle, ten years on
17 December 1997 marked the tenth anniversary of the death of Marguerite Yourcenar, French writer, the first woman to be elected to the Académie Française since its founding in 1635. In January 1981, garbed in a specially designed Yves Saint Laurent outfit, the seventy-seven-year old Yourcenar entered the portals of the Academy to take her place as the first 'immortelle' amongst almost three and a half centuries' worth of 'immortels'. She eschewed the traditional sword. The ceremonial captured literary imaginations at home and abroad. But 'immortality' is a side-issue. Many a past (and recent) member of the Academy has been forgotten; other writers not granted the distinction of being welcomed under the 'Coupole' live on. Yourcenar's immortality, then as now, rests in other hands. In the decade since her death a society devoted to her work has been publishing a critical review and holding conferences which draw participants from around the world. Eighteen such conferences took place, in countries from Bulgaria to Argentina, between 1984 and 1994. Over a million copies of 'Mémoires d'Hadrien' (1951) have been sold in France alone. Sales of the other work which made her famous, 'L'Œuvre au Noir' - already impressively high immediately after its publication during the Events of May in 1968 - were boosted further when the novel received the Prix Femina in November of that same year. It was the first time since the inception of this prize in 1904 that the jury had been unanimous in its decision.