Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

genre: non-fiction
book 10 of 10 for the Book Bloggers Reading Swap Challenge

For those of you not poetically inclined, Rainer Maria Rilke is a significant German poet from the turn of the 20th century.  This book is a compilation of letters that he wrote to a young man he did not know personally, but with whom he created a lengthy correspondence. 

It's a short book, but so rich (bordering on dense) that it took me longer to read than I'd anticipated.  Rilke is DEEP, friends.  His letters are so thought-out, so clearly thoughtful and full of personal insight that, had I been that young man, I would've kept them too.  Rilke speaks often of solitude - of the absolute human need for alone-ness, if one is to truly become at peace with one's self and especially if one wants to create art.

I especially appreciated his thoughts on love and marriage, as well as sorrow and trials.  Even in this rather literal, I think, translation from the German, Rilke's ideas on how to cope with our troubles are absolutely beautiful.  He sees them as something absolutely necessary for our growth and that instead of doubting our ability to handle our trials, we should strive to figure out what we can learn from them and how to best incorporate their lessons into our being.  I have to give a quote:

So you must not be frightened, dear Herr Kappus, when a sorrow rises up before you...You must think that something is happening upon you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.  Why do you want to exclude any disturbance, any pain, any melancholy from your life, since you do not know what these conditions are working upon you?

Deep stuff, right?

So I am having a hard time knowing how to "rate" a book such as this - it is amazing in the sense that it is full of profound truths and beautiful thoughts, but it is challenging and dry sometimes to read.  It is philosophical and sometimes I felt as though my brain could not stretch enough to even comprehend what he was even trying to say, which could be a translation issue or a "my bran" issue.  I think what it needs is 4 stars - an average of  3 for readability and 5 for giving me so much to think about.

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Tricia said...

I'm glad it gave you something to chew on. Interesting stuff there I think!

Cozy in Texas said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this.

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