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Rilke: A Life de Wolfgang Leppmann
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Rilke: A Life (original: 1981; edição: 1984)

de Wolfgang Leppmann

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802260,484 (3.5)4
The life, the art, the genius of Rainer Maria Rilke - the great poet whose Duino Elegies and Sonnets of Orpheus are among the most celebrated lyric works of the last century, and whose novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, is a much-beloved masterpiece - are projected in this remarkable full-scale biography. It is a book rich in both detail and insight, bringing into sharp perspective the myriad people, places, events, and ideas that shaped the poet's life and work. We see the young Rene born in 1875 in Prague ... raised as a girl for the first seven years of his life ... then, at age ten, enrolled in military school, but soon found to be physically unsuited to a life of soldiering ... We see Rene, supported by an uncle's bequest, on his own ... studying in Linz, in Munich, in Berlin ... making his strikingly inauspicious literary debut ... and setting off on his first journeys - the start of the nomadic life through which he would become, in effect, a citizen of the world: connected to Germany "only by language", with Russia as his emotional home, his intellectual home in Paris ... We watch him form the two strong attachments that would most deeply and dramatically affect his life ... falling in love with the brilliant and disarmingly impulsive Lou Andreas-SalomÇ (several years older than Rilke, she had earlier rejected Nietzsche's proposal of marriage) ... and, later, in Paris, adopting as his mentor the French sculptor Auguste Rodin ... and we see Rilke form, as well, many other less important but nonetheless strong emotional attachments - his friendships and love affairs with countless women ... and his marriage (about which surprisingly little is known) to the sculptor Clara Westhoff ... We see Rilke entering and moving among the glittering constellation of writers and artists whose life overlapped his own; Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Serge Diaghilev, Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Paul Klee, Stefan George, Hermann Hesse, Paul ValÇry, Balthus, and many others ... And we see, of course, Rilke's work itself, in all its glorious diversity: the early verse, the stories, the plays, the letters. We witness the poet's evolution, his shifts in interest and the growth of his talent, as he brought forth the work that has earned him a lasting place in world letters - his career culminating in one extraordinary week in which he completed the Duino Elegies (ten years in gestation) and also received the "unexpected gift" of the Sonnets to Orpheus. It is the special achievement of this book that it immerses us totally in Rilke's world. As we see and feel what the poet himself saw and felt, we enter also into that interior world of imagination out of which arose some of the greatest poetry of our age.… (mais)
Membro:aschrader
Título:Rilke: A Life
Autores:Wolfgang Leppmann
Informação:Fromm International (1984), Paperback, 421 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca
Avaliação:
Etiquetas:biography

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Rilke: A Life de Wolfgang Leppmann (1981)

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Another book from the “50% off” table at Barnes and Noble. I seem to be finding myself reading a lot about the last days of the AustroHungarian Empire lately. This book evokes the fin de siècle atmosphere of the time and place by following Rilke’s life and career. You don’t have to know anything of Rilke’s poetry to find his life interesting. (Although by all means read it; at least The Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus). A couple of things in particular struck me:


The ease of international, or at least interEuropean, travel. The book provides a chronology of Rilke’s life; so for (as an example) 1899 we find Rilke starting out in Berlin, then Arco (in the Tyrol), then Bolzano, Prague, Vienna, Russian, back to Berlin, Bibersburg, then closing out the year back in Berlin. These are places where Rilke had at least a temporary residence, not just places he passed through; and this is not an unusual year. Rilke wrote poetry in both German and French. (Born in Prague, he ended up as a Czech citizen after WWI, although he never actually set foot in Czechoslovakia after it became independent.) You wonder if the Eurocrats have a sort of remembered nostalgia for this sort of freedom of movement. Of course, what brought it all to an end was the ease of terrorist passage from Serbia to Austrian and the assassination at Sarajevo. History seems ripe to repeat.


The less-than-strict sexual morals. We’ve all heard the expressions “the gay Nineties” and “the naughty Oughts”, so I was prepared for the idea that great-grandfather might have messed around a little. However, I wasn’t ready for the carload lots that Rilke dealt in, and the fact that he was usually the seducee and not the seducer. And what names they had!


Láska van Oestéren

Fransika von Reventlow

Luise von Salomé (who had earlier been the mistress of Friedrich Nietzsche)

Lulu Albert-Lasard

Marthe Hennebert

Adelmina Romanelli

Baroness Sidonie Nádherny von Borutin

Princess Madeleine de Broglie

Valerie von David-Rhonfeld

Eleonora Duse

Baladine Klossowski

Wera Ouckama Knoop

Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlowe

Luise von Schwerin


and that’s just a sample. He married Clara Westhoff and had a daughter, but quickly abandoned both, although he would sometimes write the long-suffering Clara for advice on. During his final illness she rushed to Switzerland to be with him but was refused entrance to his hospital room (it’s not clear whether Rilke or his physicians were responsible for this).


To be fair, Rilke’s contemporaries also found his success with the ladies a little odd; one commented


“Not only do impressionable and easily aroused teenage girls find this failure of a man attractive; but no, also mature women of quite normal sensuality...”


It’s also possible that some of the women later exaggerated their relationships with Rilke for the notoriety value; a number published “kiss and tell” memoirs after Rilke’s death.


Rilke had a lot of contact, casual and serious, with the other artists of the period. He met Tolstoy, worked as a secretary for Rodin (and watched as George Bernard Shaw sat for a bust) and shared an apartment (and apparently a redhead) with Paul Klee. He was writing The Duino Elegies in Trieste at the same time James Joyce was working there as an English tutor and writing Ulysses (although Rilke and Joyce apparently never met).


Alas, the book did disabuse me of one bittersweet myth about Rilke’s final days. One of his last poem cycles was Les Chansons des Roses, a relatively light (for Rilke) work in which the beauty and thorniness of the flower is symbolic of love (and roses appear frequently in his other poetry). Beginning to feel his terminal illness (leukemia), Rilke retired to a house in Switzerland which had a magnificent rose garden. Receiving a visit from some (of course) lady friends, he rushed out to pick some flowers and, in his hurry, pricked his thumb on a thorn. The way I heard the story the cut developed into an infection which Rilke’s compromised immune system couldn’t fight off and was the proximate cause of death. However, it turns out that although the infection was severe enough to keep him from writing for a few days he had recovered from it by the time he died of acute leukemia.


I find a weird pop culture connection in Rilke’s life. His patroness the Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlowe (he was living in her castle at Duino when he wrote The Duino Elegies) was a member of the Thurn und Taxis family; Thurn and Taxis is enmeshed in an international conspiracy against postal service (W.A.S.T.E.) in Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying of Lot 49. That novel also features the California aerospace firm Yoyodyne; which, in turn, is a front company for the red Lectroid aliens in the cult movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension and is the manufacturer (as YPS, Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems) of much of the Federation star fleet in Star Trek. I have yet to relate Buckaroo Banzai or Star trek back to Rilke, but I’m sure something will turn up eventually. Start googling; it gets more and more complicated. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 17, 2017 |
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) probably counts - especially for English readers - as the most famous German poet of the 20th century. And I think that's part of the reason why I've been a bit hesitant about getting to know his work. Another part is that he's one of those poets who are over-popular with readers who are looking for some sort of mystical/spiritual self-improvement effect from reading poetry, and don't much care about the words as long as they are ambiguous (cf. Yeats, Khalil Gibran, Rumi, Omar Khayyam, ...). But of course prejudice about other readers is not a valid reason for not reading someone! Anyway, I thought I'd start with the standard biography and get a bit of context for him. In the background, I've also dipped into some of the works as I went along - the early Prague poems, Cornet Rilke, the Duino Elegies, the Sonnets to Orpheus. But of course I need to spend more time on those, especially the last two.

What especially struck me from the biography is how determined Rilke seems to have been not to fit into anything we would expect of him. He grew up as a member of the German-speaking middle-classes in Prague, but his parents were right on the bottom edge of this elite, and young Rilke obviously had quite a soft spot for the Czech culture that surrounded him, even if it comes over as somewhat patronising in his early poems ("Komm her, du Tschechenmädchen, / Sing mir ein Heimatlied..."). After the war, he surprised everyone by taking Czechoslovakian citizenship (but never actually went back to live there after his teens).

Most unpoetically, he failed to be miserable at military school, even though it was pretty obvious to his teachers that he was never going to be any use as an army officer; later on, he made only rather half-hearted attempts to compensate for the intellectually unchallenging regime there, and he apparently had big gaps in his knowledge of German and classical literature to the end of his life (don't we all?). In any case, he didn't really look for models in German texts - his biggest influences were Russian, Scandinavian, Spanish and French, and not only writers but also painters and sculptors (Rodin especially). He never seems to have earned anything like as much from his writing as he needed to support himself, but there was always a patron or lover available to help him out (even his publisher was happy to give him money he knew he would never get back). The two castles where he wrote his most important works are perhaps typical of the way he lived - at Duino (near Trieste) he was allowed to stay as often as he liked as the guest of his aristocratic patron Princess Marie of Thurn and Taxis; Muzot (near Sierre, Switzerland) was bought for him by his friends after the First World War.

Rilke's private life is almost as complicated as his wanderings around Europe - it's difficult to tell which of the many women in his life were lovers and which patrons, and he seems to have had the gift of remaining friends for life with (almost) all his ex-girlfriends. With his wife, the sculptor Clara Westhoff, and their daughter, Ruth, it wasn't quite so simple - the marriage lasted for 25 years, but they only spent about a year of it together. (Leppmann suggests that there might have been bureaucratic complications because of their different nationalities and (nominal) religions that discouraged them from seeking a divorce.)

Leppmann's biography is not exactly a light, quick read, but it tells us the things we need to know, takes its time to reflect on what they mean, and seems to strike a good balance between "life" and "work", usually taking a couple of chapters in each section of the book to analyse representative works in detail. I'm sure I'm going to be coming back to this as I dip further into the poems. ( )
1 vote thorold | Aug 28, 2017 |
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The life, the art, the genius of Rainer Maria Rilke - the great poet whose Duino Elegies and Sonnets of Orpheus are among the most celebrated lyric works of the last century, and whose novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, is a much-beloved masterpiece - are projected in this remarkable full-scale biography. It is a book rich in both detail and insight, bringing into sharp perspective the myriad people, places, events, and ideas that shaped the poet's life and work. We see the young Rene born in 1875 in Prague ... raised as a girl for the first seven years of his life ... then, at age ten, enrolled in military school, but soon found to be physically unsuited to a life of soldiering ... We see Rene, supported by an uncle's bequest, on his own ... studying in Linz, in Munich, in Berlin ... making his strikingly inauspicious literary debut ... and setting off on his first journeys - the start of the nomadic life through which he would become, in effect, a citizen of the world: connected to Germany "only by language", with Russia as his emotional home, his intellectual home in Paris ... We watch him form the two strong attachments that would most deeply and dramatically affect his life ... falling in love with the brilliant and disarmingly impulsive Lou Andreas-SalomÇ (several years older than Rilke, she had earlier rejected Nietzsche's proposal of marriage) ... and, later, in Paris, adopting as his mentor the French sculptor Auguste Rodin ... and we see Rilke form, as well, many other less important but nonetheless strong emotional attachments - his friendships and love affairs with countless women ... and his marriage (about which surprisingly little is known) to the sculptor Clara Westhoff ... We see Rilke entering and moving among the glittering constellation of writers and artists whose life overlapped his own; Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Serge Diaghilev, Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Paul Klee, Stefan George, Hermann Hesse, Paul ValÇry, Balthus, and many others ... And we see, of course, Rilke's work itself, in all its glorious diversity: the early verse, the stories, the plays, the letters. We witness the poet's evolution, his shifts in interest and the growth of his talent, as he brought forth the work that has earned him a lasting place in world letters - his career culminating in one extraordinary week in which he completed the Duino Elegies (ten years in gestation) and also received the "unexpected gift" of the Sonnets to Orpheus. It is the special achievement of this book that it immerses us totally in Rilke's world. As we see and feel what the poet himself saw and felt, we enter also into that interior world of imagination out of which arose some of the greatest poetry of our age.

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