Author(s): Rainer Maria Rilke
While his old furniture rots in storage, Malte Laurids Brigge lives in a cheap room in Paris, with little but a library reader's card to distinguish him from the city's untouchables. Every person he sees seems to carry their death with them, and he thinks of the deaths, and ghosts, of his aristocratic family, of which only he remains. The only novel by one of the greatest writers of poetry in German, the semi-autobiographical "Notebooks" is an uneasy, compelling and poetic book that anticipated Sartre and is full of passages of lyrical brilliance. Michael Hulse's new translation perfectly conveys the unsettling beauty of the original and is accompanied by an introduction on Rilke's life and the biographical and literary influences on the Notebooks. This edition also includes suggested further reading, a chronology and notes.
"There have been books that have struck me like lightning and left me riven, permanently scarred, perhaps burned-out but picturesque; and there have been those that created complete countries with their citizens, their cows, their climate, where I could choose to live for long periods while enduring, defying, enjoying their scenery and seasons; but there have been one or two I came to love with a profounder and more enduring passion, not just because, somehow, they seemed to speak to the most intimate 'me' I knew but also because they emobodied what I held to be humanly highest, and were therefore made of words which revealed a powerful desire moving with the rhythmic grace of Blake's Tyger; an awareness that was pitilessly unsentimental, yet receptive as a sponge; feelings that were free and undeformed and unashamed; thought that looked at all its conclusions and didn't blink; as well as an imagination that could dance on the heads of all those angels dancing on that pin. I thought that [Rilke's] Notebooks were full of writing that met that tall order." -- William H. Gass
Michael Hulse has won numerous awards for his poetry, among them first prizes in the National Poetry Competition and the Bridport Poetry Competition (twice) as well as the Society of Authors' Eric Gregory Award and Cholmondeley Award. He has been editor of a literature classics series and of literary quarterlies, has scripted news and documentary programmes for Deutsche Welle television, and has taught at the universities of Erlangen, Eichstatt, Cologne, Zurich, and currently Warwick. Among over sixty books he has translated from the German are titles by W. G. Sebald and Elfriede Jelinek and, for Penguin, Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther and Jakob Wassermann's Caspar Hauser. Rainer Maria Rilke was born in 1875 in Prague. He studied literature, art history and philosophy in both Munich and Prague, and is often considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets. 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.