Diaries Of A Young Poet

Overview

"In the diaries [Rilke] kept from 1898 to 1900, now translated for the first time . . . the overall impression is that of a genius just coming into his own powers."—Boston Phoenix
In April 1898 Rainer Maria Rilke, not yet twenty-three, began a diary of his Florence visit. It was to record, in the form of an imaginary dialogue with his mentor and then-lover, Lou Andreas-Salome, his firsthand experiences of early Renaissance art. The project quickly expanded to include not only thoughts on life, history, and ...

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Overview

"In the diaries [Rilke] kept from 1898 to 1900, now translated for the first time . . . the overall impression is that of a genius just coming into his own powers."—Boston Phoenix
In April 1898 Rainer Maria Rilke, not yet twenty-three, began a diary of his Florence visit. It was to record, in the form of an imaginary dialogue with his mentor and then-lover, Lou Andreas-Salome, his firsthand experiences of early Renaissance art. The project quickly expanded to include not only thoughts on life, history, and artistic genius, but also unguarded moments of revulsion, self-doubt, and manic expectation. The result is an intimate glimpse into the young Rilke, already experimenting brilliantly with language and metaphor. "For the lover of Rilke, this superb translation of the poet's early diaries will be a watershed. Through Edward Snow's and Michael Winkler's brilliantly supple and faithful translation . . . a new and more balanced picture of Rilke will emerge."—Ralph Freedman

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rilke (1875-1926) can seem at once so overrefined, passionate and feminine that one can understand why W.H. Auden jokingly called him "the greatest lesbian poet since Sappho." Fluently, if not memorably written, these youthful diaries will best be appreciated by addicts of Rilke's works, such as Letters to a Young Poet, Sonnets to Orpheus and Duino Elegies. Rilke was a reluctant journal-keeper and these are by no means major works. They begin in April 1898, when the 22-year-old arrives in Florence where he was instructed to go by his lover and most important muse, Lou Andreas-Salom. In an effort to focus Rilke's talents, she also instructs him to keep diaries, which he does on his trips through Italy, Germany and as far away as Saint Petersburg. The young Rilke intersperses accounts of meetings with German cultural figures like the playwright Gerhart Hauptmann, with verse that is far from his best. Indeed, some of the verse is so prosaic that it is almost indistinguishable from the flow of the young aesthete's languid visits to cafs, ogling masterpieces in museums and pooh-poohing German bad taste such as a "deathbed-postcard" of Bismarck after the Iron Chancellor's demise in 1898. The translators, two literature professors from Rice University, note that the corrupt Nazi-era edition from which they worked "makes no claims to being a work of philological scholarship.... We have followed it even where, on occasion, there is reason to doubt its accuracy." It would have been helpful to know why they were unable to consult the original manuscripts of Rilke's diaries, now in a Jagiellonian Library in Krakow. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
The musings of a writer during his apprenticeship.

Rilke (18751926) spent two and a half years, from 1898 to 1900, keeping a diary at the suggestion of his lover, Lou Andreas- Salomé. This intrinsically private work takes shape as an impassioned miscellany, including drafts of poems, gossip about Rilke's friends and acquaintances, direct observations of place, his reflections on art and architecture from the Renaissance to Rodin, and fictional tales. Mixed in with this stimulating hodgepodge is some blather. "Every day is the beginning of life," exulted Rilke in 1900. "Every life is the beginning of eternity." But the youthful Romantic could be witty as well as narcotically lyric. One of the diary's climactic moments comes as he commits to paper his adventure of trying to visit and impress Count Leo Tolstoy at the great man's country estate with Lou: "A dog comes right up to us, trusting and friendly, as we stand there in front of the small glass door. I bend down to the white dog and as I straighten up again I see behind the glass, vague and distorted by the flaws of the pane, a pair of searching eyes in a small grizzled face. The door opens, lets You [Lou] in and slams sharply against me, so that I, only after the Count has already greeted You, come in and now also stand before him, feeling awkwardly large." Rilke's actual visual sense takes the measure of Florence evocatively: "The ornamentation that nestles up against the columns is in the best instances unobtrusive and straightforward, a beautiful thought or a tender feeling elicited by the column." The poems included are languorously unfinished reveries, brimming with girls, flowers, and boyish, transcendent emotion. But Rilke was not always sacramentally poetic; even "a dachsund with the demeanor of a sphinx" could catch his eye and spur his sentences.

Platitudes, poetry, and revelations for Rilke's many American admirers—translated for the first time into English.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393318500
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 338
  • Sales rank: 1,477,345
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is considered one of the greatest poets who ever wrote in the German language. His most famous works are Sonnets to Orpheus, The Duino Elegies, Letters to a Young Poet, and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

His collected work is comprised of hundreds of other poems, essays, plays, and stories.

Edward Snow is an award-winning translator of the poetry and prose of Rilke. He is a professor at Rice University and lives in Houston, Texas.

Michael Winkler has written extensively on modern poetry and fiction. He is a professor at Rice University and lives in Houston, Texas.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Chronology
The Florence Diary: 15 April 1898-6 July 1898 (Florence, Viareggio, Zoppot) 1
The Schmargendorf Diary: 11 July 1898-26 September 1900 (Zoppot, Oliva, Berlin, Schmargendorf, [St. Petersburg, Moscow], Worpswede) 79
The Worpswede Diary: 27 September 1900-22 December 1900 (Worpswede, [Hamburg], Schmargendorf) 189
Notes 277
Index of Works by Rilke in the Diaries by Title and First Line 299
General Index 302
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