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The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Penguin Classics) Paperback – August 25, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"There have been books that have struck me like lightning and left me riven, permanently scarred, perhaps burned-out but picturesque; and there have been those that created complete countries with their citizens, their cows, their climate, where I could choose to live for long periods while enduring, defying, enjoying their scenery and seasons; but there have been one or two I came to love with a profounder and more enduring passion, not just because, somehow, they seemed to speak to the most intimate 'me' I knew but also because they emobodied what I held to be humanly highest, and were therefore made of words which revealed a powerful desire moving with the rhythmic grace of Blake's Tyger; an awareness that was pitilessly unsentimental, yet receptive as a sponge; feelings that were free and undeformed and unashamed; thought that looked at all its conclusions and didn't blink; as well as an imagination that could dance on the heads of all those angels dancing on that pin. I thought that [Rilke's] Notebooks were full of writing that met that tall order." -- William H. Gass

"One of the world's most beautiful books."
-"The Philadelphia Inquirer"

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Critical ed. edition (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182216
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zachary Hale on April 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
This proto-existentialist novel features a main character (Malte) that is frightened by the possibility of faceless-ness; that is, he is terrified by the collapse of a coherent subject/identity in modernity. This work is highly critical of the traditional narrative where everything occurs in a logical and temporal order that is coherent and teleological. Through the character of Malte, Rilke illustrates the decay of such an understanding of one's self and the chaos that results.
Rilke read a lot of Nietzsche prior to writing this book, and many of the same themes Nietzsche contemplated in The Gay Science and Thus Spake Zarathustra are reworked by Rilke in this novel. It is my interpretation that Rilke was trying to work out a theory of modern, fragmented, existential subjectivity and then offer some way to make such a life livable. Rilke explores such themes as memory's transience, unpredictability, and instability, the role of a God in a world after the "death of God", and a dissolving of the conceptual categories between the self and the other, or the inside and the outside, all play into this fascinating book.
The book is written in notebook form, which plays into the notion of fragmentary identity and problematic narrative. Entries jump from the past to the present to imagined futures in an often random and chaotic order. There is no "plot" to speak of, although there are bits and pieces of narratives, but nothing sufficient enough to create a comprehensible 'Malte'. All the while, you are in the mind of a character that is trying and failing to make sense of it all (to 'impose' a narrative).
The later Martin Heidegger always lauded Rilke (despite Rilke's being too metaphysical) for being able to express ways of interacting with the world that were non-humanist.
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Format: Paperback
If you read this at the right time of life no other book will ever be more important to you. I read it when I was 19 and for me that was the right age. Rilke's Notebooks contain what amounts to the crisis of modern existence. For Rilke the solution was writing some of the best poetry ever written. If you want proof read it. For Malte it was not so clear yet and his struggles will be very familiar to any student of the arts. As a time piece this also has much value. It records the change over from the old Europe to the new. For Malte, as it was for many of Mann's, Musil's, Broch's... characters, this proves devastating. Identity threatening. The second half of this book is not as good as the first half but I'll take that first half and disregard the rest. Read this while reading Rilke's greatest contribution to our world, his poetry.
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Format: Paperback
though it seems to be a collection of strange lyric essays moving from simple snapshots to fantastic recollections and musings. There are seeds planted early that expand and flower, painfully and beautifully and so truthfully. This is what books should do for people. Every sentence, as foreign as it can seem, you've known all your life, and you see it now in words. I don't know anything about german, but this translation is incredibly beautiful, I cannot imagine the original could work any better than this. There is no desire to move forward, you move through the pages and can't imagine having to look up. Blah blah and more blah, its really good.
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Format: Paperback
I recently had occasion to replace my worn-out (tattered) copy of The Notebooks of MLB and when my new copy arrived I started reading it. It is a remarkable work in every way, sometimes seeming simple and straightforward, sometimes so arcane it's almost impossible to figure out what Rilke is trying to say. I love this book. I have learned so much about myself by looking into the mirror Rilke holds up -- a mirror he himself faced, and in response to which he wrote The Notebooks. He invites us into his universe, and it is so rich and abundant we always learn new things about ourselves as we read. This is a book to savor, to live with, to read often. Take it in small doses if it seems too arcane. Reflect on it, and the meaning will come to you. And if it doesn't, let it go and come back to it at some future time. I first read it 25 years ago and I'm still discovering new things in it. The layers of meaning can be overwhelming. But for sheer beauty of image and incisive insights into the self, this book can't be beat.
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Format: Paperback
I discovered this book quite by accident, so it has a a special place for me. I found it at a used book sale in my home town, pop. 2000, and was so curious as to what exactly it was about, I bought it, figuring it had to have some value. Needless to say, it was like nothing I'd read at that point, being all of 21. It didn't matter to me that the book was plotless (as has been noted elsewhere)--the prose was gorgeous.
I still have my copy, and have gone back to it a number of times in the last 20 years. At one point I read aloud, to my wife, the last section in which Rilke/Malte gives his interpretation of the Prodigal Son story. I didn't know when I began, but it would soon reduce me to tears. So you could say it spoke to me very personally about love and "not wanting to be loved", which is part of his theme about the Prodigal.
A gem of a book, but probably not for everyone...but then, that's true for many books!
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