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Letters to a Young Poet Paperback – May 8, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rainer Maria Rilke (also Rainer Maria von Rilke) (4 December 1875 - 29 December 1926) is considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety - themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets. He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two most famous verse sequences are the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. He also wrote more than 400 poems in French, dedicated to his homeland of choice, the canton of Valais in Switzerland.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (May 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486422453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486422459
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #924,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Rilke's letters to Franz Kappus were written between 1903 and 1908. They were first published in German in 1929. In 1934 H. D. Herter Norton produced the first English translation (revised by her in 1954). The second English translation that I know of was done by Reginald Snell in 1945 and published in London by Sidgwick and Jackson. The edition being offered here is the Snell translation--only his name and the original publication data have been stripped from the book. (Other than that, the book is essentially a photocopy of the 1945 edition.)

The publisher here is "BN Publishing" which I assume means "Barnes & Noble" (although the "about us" link on their website says almost nothing about them!).

The Snell translation seems to me quite adequate. Here is a sample of one sentence done by three translators:

"And this more human love...will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other." -- H. D. Herter Norton (1934)

"And this more human love...will be something like that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love which consists in the mutual guarding, bordering and saluting of two solitudes." -- Reginald Snell (1945)

"And this more human love... will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other." -- Stephen Mitchell (1984)

Of these three, the Norton seems to me to have the best cadence, but beyond that Rilke's sense is present in all.

One does wonder, however, why BN Publishing felt free to erase this book's origins.
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Format: Paperback
-Whenever I feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders...
-Whenever I'm overwhelmed by the noise, violence and sorrows of the world...
-Whenever I am deceiving my true nature...
-Whenever I lose touch with my artistic spirit...

I reach for this book and it helps me find my way back to that quiet place inside, reminding me that 'feeling' alone is not the same as 'being' alone and that our solitude is a gift.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is probably my favorite book (or whatever you'd like to call it - thing between two covers) of all time. I can't recommend it enough.

That said, the Kindle version is indefensibly poorly-done. There are paragraph breaks, and that's the extent of its formatting. The book should be outstandingly simple to format correctly. It's an introduction followed by ten letters. However, this version simply runs together, making it difficult to read and parse through. Purchase the physical version. You'll be glad you did.
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Format: Paperback
There are works that surface time and time again in cultural circles, in film, literature, music, etc. One of these is Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. The young poet, Franz Xaver Kappus, is unremarkable in this set of letters as we never see the poems he sent to Rilke, nor do we see his end of the correspondence. Yet, what Kappus realizes, and so too the reader, is that his offerings are absolutely unnecessary because we see them through Rilke's eyes. Rilke readily assumes the mantle of humble mentor, dispensing pearls of wisdom in a language that teaches the young Kappus that not all poetry is written in stanzas.

One wonders if Rilke was indeed writing to the world. His replies to Kappus are lofty but sincere, and filled with passages that seem destined for quotation:

"Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer."

For Rilke, bite-size gifts of mature sophistry (in the Classical sense of the word) will not suffice. In these letters to Kappus, Rilke seizes the opportunity to work out his own philosophy through provocative and probing questions. We learn that Kappus, during the course of his military service, has lost faith in God, and Rilke asks him, "Is it not much rather the case that you have never yet possessed him? ... Do you believe a child can hold him, him whom men bear only with difficulty, whose weight bows down on the aged?" Rilke is ready to be not only a literary mentor, but a theological counselor.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are any kind of artist, be it literary or visual or whatever, you will benefit from this read. Rilke explains how to live as an artist, how to employ your subconscious forces and how to see the beauty in your Life- that you can use as material.
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This collection of letters written by Rainer Rilke should be given to young students in every educational institute in the world as material to help shape their own consciousness. It is a short (around 43 pages long), yet extremely meaningful and enlightening piece of work that features nearly no filler material due to its length. As the these were originally letters written by Rilke in response to a friend, Franz Kappus, who was on the road to a life in the military, they are direct in subject matter and act as if Rilke is speaking directly to you, rather than Kappus. The beauty of this is that the letters were written over 110 years ago, yet when you read them now they are written in such a timeless way that they could have been written at any point in history.

The letters struck a cord in me quite promptly as I started reading them, and effectively finished the book in one sitting - fully engrossed in Rilke's writing. Rilke discusses many matters with Kappus, firstly stating how, when creating art, it needs to come from your innermost being: "go into yourself and see how deep the place is which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question of whether or not you must create"

Rilke continues to discuss love, how meaningless criticism is from outside sources are on art you have put your soul into to create, the importance of solitude, and how important it is to not get involved in questioning life constantly, as it will always answer your question in time. I'll end this review with a quote from the book that is conclusive and leaves you with an incentive to read this wonderful work!

"I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your whole development; you couldn't disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer."
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