Marguerite Yourcenar Long Fiction Analysis
Some of Marguerite Yourcenar’s novels have appeared in English, including A Coin in Nine Hands, Coup de Grâce, Memoirs of Hadrian, and The Abyss. A Coin in Nine Hands, first published in 1934 and extensively revised in 1959, takes place in Rome in 1933 and is thus unlike the other three novels in having (in its first version at least) a contemporary setting. It is also atypical in the number of its important characters. Coup de Grâce has only three major characters. Memoirs of Hadrian and The Abyss have large casts of secondary figures, but each is firmly centered on a singleprotagonist. A Coin in Nine Hands, in contrast, gives fairly full treatment to about a dozen characters, some of them only tenuously connected to one another. The looseness of structure that might have resulted is guarded by the concentration of the time scheme: Though the novel contains a certain amount of retrospective narrative (the past is always a concern for Yourcenar), the main action is confined to a period of about eighteen hours.
A Coin in Nine Hands
The English title of A Coin in Nine Hands refers to a unique structural feature of the novel, its tracing of the passage of a ten-lira piece from one character to another. The nine characters who handle the coin, and several others as well, are linked by a network of relationships, often casual or accidental, although...
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