Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Buy Used
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Excellent copy, clean with no writing or marking in text of book.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation Hardcover – September 7, 1999

3.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$6.80 $0.01

Up to 50% off select Non-Fiction books
Featured titles are up to 50% off for a limited time. See all titles
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1922, four years before he died of leukemia at age 51, Rilke finally completed the Duino Elegies, named for the castle where they poured out over an intensive four day (and night) period; within days of their completion, the Sonnets to Orpheus emerged as a reality-affirming coda. Rilke's dense and intricate verbal texture has made translation all the more irresistible over the years, and Gass, an intellectual eminence (Cartesian Sonata; Finding a Form; The Tunnel; etc.) is the first to meet the challenge discursively: this genre-bending book is a series of personal essaysAat times veering between melodramatic and ellipticalAthat explore Rilke's biography as much as they address Gass's own difficult choices in the translations scattered throughout. Gass vividly evokes a poet "getting used to strange dark halls, guest beds, always cadging and scrounging, eating poorly," finding Rilke's lyrics "obdurate, complex, and compacted... displaying an orator's theatrical power, while remaining as suited to a chamber and its music as a harpsichord." In the translations themselves, however, Gass tends to replace complexity with unwarranted truism, as in the Fourth elegyA"but the contours of our feelings stay unknown/ when public pressure shapes the face we know"Aas if to shield readers from the difficult and the strange. (Translations of all 10 elegies appear in an appendix at the book's end.) That said, Gass has an impressive ear for dramatic prosody, and a sensitivity to Rilke's playfulness and formal elegance (especially in the Tenth Elegy). Its willingness to be bold in a climate of scholarly restraint makes this translation one of the best availableAsuperior, in particular, to the once-standard versions by Leishman and Spender, and to the recent versions of Stephen Mitchell. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Gass offers so much more than the subtitle to this gem might imply. The pages are filled with seamlessly intertwined biographical insights, textual analysis, commentary on the elusive art of translation, and fresh and vibrant new renderings of many of Rainer Maria Rilke's key works. A fitting tribute to one of the 20th century's greatest poets and everything literary criticism should be. (LJ 8/99)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (September 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375403124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375403125
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It may seem odd that a book about translating Rainer Maria Rilke would be a good place to start encountering the poet.
But Rilke is not only a brilliant poet, one of the greatest of the twentieth century, he is also difficult to approach. I read him on and off for ten years before I could see beyond what I thought was pretentious esthetic posturing. (Now, like so many others, I see Rilke as one of the great meditators on art and life, someone who reveals us to ourselves with a depth and clarity that few -- if any -- can equal.)
Here, in sum, is why this book is so wonderful. William Gass has read, and struggled with, and been guided by, Rainier Maria Rilke all his life. In many ways, he tells us, he has been clolser to Rilke than any other human being. And now, after a half century of that intimate relationship, he tells us who this literary 'friend' is, what his life has been, what he has gone through, what he has achieved -- and why we should care. There can be no more important book for any of us to write: 'this is what I cared most about in my life, this is what I learned from that caring.'

This is what Willam H. Gass, a major American novelist, does in his book:
-- He provides a brilliant short biography of Rilke
-- He explicates, effortlessly, some of his shorter lyrics, so that the reader can understand what Rilke does and what is at stake in his poems.
-- He teaches us, through a long but not boring chapter on translation, just how complex and apt Rilke's language is. That is not small accomplishment, since Rilke seems to sing so effortlessly that it easy to overlook how much is going on in each phrase.
Read more ›
Comment 55 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
By A Customer on September 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
at first I was skeptical about a 200 page book that combines everything from the entirety of Rilke's life to an in-depth analysis of not 2, not 3, but *12* different translators and their treatment of Rilke. in a relatively short space this book manages to dazzle me with the way it stands back from all that's been done to Rilke and twisted from Rilke, and offers up a Rilke who is human -- both a puppet and an angel.
Comment 38 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Gass's comparisons of previous translations of Rilke show a deep understanding of the problems involved in translating this complex poet. His own versions of the Duino Elegies are passable, though he is largely unconcerned with poetic rhythm. He even quotes previous translations in prose (i.e. without line breaks)! Gass's own famously ornate prose shows signs of strain; it is breezy and full of jarringly inappropriate similes. Wonderful insights are often juxtaposed with irrelevant comparisons, making the book enjoyable and frustrating by turns.
Comment 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
For those of us who have been caught in the overwhelming force of the Duino Elegies or the Sonnets for Orpheus, William Gass's short book of reflections explores the life that brought forth such poignant works. After reading what moves from essay to biography to personal response, I found myself understanding the trials that Rilke endured and the concerns that he faced each day. I could not help but grow closer to Rilke and his work, as Gass's masterful language found the perfect word, the perfect thought, and the perfect explanation for what made Rilke's poetry so powerful. The book carries an unfortunate title, because ultimately it is Gass's account of the life, the poetry, and the symbols that permeated Rilke's ouvre, not Gass's translation efforts, which remain sharp in my memory. This book is not for the casual reader, but for those who are truly moved by Rilke's work, for those seeking a deeper understanding and appreciation of it.
Comment 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the kind of book that rarely appears these days, a meditative cycle of free-form essays that adopts its own poetic approach, here to the densely metaphorical and sometimes mysterious imagery of Rainer Maria Rilke, the most important poet writing in German in the 20th century and perhaps even more, an artist's artist, and a figure whose influence has only increased in recent years.

This ever-widening attention to Rilke is reflected in Gass's fascinating and trenchant discussion of side-by-side excerpts from nearly two dozen translations of Rilke's masterpiece The Duino Elegies, the book's centerpiece and a most useful guide for the non-expert attempting to penetrate Rilke's powerful use of German, a language that non-German-speakers don't immediately identify with poetic utterance. In that alone, Gass's book will be a revelation, taking the reader into lines, words and images with a translator's critical and aesthetic eye and ear, elucidating why Gass himself makes the choices he does.

In fact the book appears to be a kind of gloss, an extended set of notes with related ideas that allowed Gass to arrive at his own translation of the Elegies, a translation that appears at the end of this volume. It is a plus that Gass's own version of the Elegies hardly offers the final word on the matter - although he is transparent in discussing his own sometimes idiosyncratic choices and solutions, you feel that the results are sometimes artificial, unmusical, and enjambed for meaning. But we only bring that level of critical insight because of Gass's own discussion, and in that vein the book is really very generous: rather than closing the door to others, Gass's study invites further efforts.
Read more ›
Comment 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews