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 (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.
Mark Harman, who has written extensively on German and Irish literature, is Professor of English and German at Elizabethtown College.