In 1902, a nineteen-year-old aspiring poet named Franz Kappus wrote to Rilke, then twenty-six, seeking advice on his poetry. Kappus, a student at a military academy in Vienna similar to the one Rilke had attended, was about to embark on a career as an officer, for which he had little inclination. Touched by the innocence and forthrightness of the student, Rilke responded to Kappus letter and began an intermittent correspondence that would last until 1908.
"Letters to a Young Poet" collects the ten letters that Rilke wrote to Kappus. A book often encountered in adolescence, it speaks directly to the young. Rilke offers unguarded thoughts on such diverse subjects as creativity, solitude, self-reliance, living with uncertainty, the shallowness of irony, the uselessness of criticism, career choices, sex, love, God, and art. Lette"rs to a Young Poet "is, finally, a life manual. Art, Rilke tells the young poet in his final letter to him, is only another way of living.
With the same artistry that marks his widely acclaimed translations of Kafka s "The Castle "and" Amerika: The Missing Person, " Mark Harman captures the lyrical and spiritual dimensions of Rilke s prose. In his introduction, he provides biographical contexts for the reader and discusses the challenges of translating Rilke. This lovely hardcover edition makes a perfect gift for any young person starting out in life or for those interested in finding a clear articulation of Rilke s thoughts on life and art.
About the Author
Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague in 1875 and traveled throughout Europe for much of his adult life, returning frequently to Paris. There he came under the influence of the sculptor Auguste Rodin and produced much of his finest verse, most notably the two volumes of "New Poems "as well as the great modernist novel "The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge." Among his other books of poems are "The Book of Images" and "The Book of Hours. "He lived the last years of his life in Switzerland, where he completed his two poetic masterworks, the "Duino Elegies" and "Sonnets to Orpheus." He died of leukemia in December 1926.
Mark Harman, who has written extensively on German and Irish literature, is Professor of English and German at Elizabethtown College.