The little mermaid

by Marguerite Yourcenar

I got to know Marguerite Yourcenar through her short stories and novels. Between 1930 and 1961, Yourcenar wrote six plays, some of them straight off, others rewritten several times over the years. La Petite Sirène was commissioned by a friend who was an actor, set designer and organizer of lively soirées and who asked her to explore the theme of water.


The play is divided into three parts: the first is set at the bottom of the sea, the second on the shore and the last aboard a ship. At the end there is an imaginary flight. It is the story of an ascent, the ascent of a creature that abandons heaviness for lightness.

Yourcenar’s characters reflect the themes dear to their creator. The fates that they meet expose them to all the tragedy of existence, as well as its comedy (as in Greek drama). Everyone will be surprised by the unforeseeable and unforeseen course that things take, revealing how vain and futile are our attempts at planning and interpreting. Everything turns out differently from how we imagine it. Life is elusive. All things change. And there is, in them, a tendency toward lightness, toward a going beyond the game in which we are caught up. Marguerite Yourcenar also tells us that, to get inside a person, to understand her, you have to listen to her voice...

 Marina Spreafico