Former Laureates

Marguerite Yourcenar

Marguerite Yourcenar


To mark the 25th anniversary of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation in 1983, four Erasmus Prizes were awarded. The recipients were Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, Leszek Kolakowski and Marguerite Yourcenar.

Marguerite Yourcenar was born in Brussels in 1903 and brought up in France. Since the Second World War she lived in the United States until her death in 1987. She established a reputation as novelist, essayist and dramatist. Her work constantly reveals her empathic power which enables her to go back into the past, although for her the past may also be yesterday. In the story How Wang Fo was Saved she tells the story of the role of the artist in the world. By using historical figures she makes clear the unique but at the same time universal qualities of the individual in time. This is particularly evident in her best known books, Mémoires d’Hadrien, l’Oeuvre au Noir and Alexis ou le traité du vain combat. In so doing she is able to explain her fundamental humanist belief in the essentially unchanging nature of man. In 1980 Marguerite Yourcenar was the first woman to be elected into the Académie Française.

Marguerite Yourcenar donated half of her Erasmus Prize to the World Wildlife Fund – USA.