Rilke, Rainer Maria
Rainer Maria Rilke, photo 1906
Rilke, Rainer Maria, b. Prague (Czech Republic), Dec. 4, 1875, d. Val-Mont near Montreux (Switzerland), Dec. 29, 1926, poet of world renown, prose writer, essayist. Grew up in Prague, 1886-1891 attended the military schools of St. Pölten and Mährisch-Weißkirchen and 1891/92 the commercial college in Linz; studied art history and literary history as well as law in Prague, Munich and Berlin; a meeting with Lou Andreas-Salomé in 1897 made him decide to take up writing as a profession.
1900 joined Worpswede, the group of German artists, and 1901 married sculptor Clara Westhoff. After the dissolution of the marriage (1902 birth of daughter Ruth) moved to Paris in 1902 and became private secretary to the sculptor A. Rodin in Meudon in 1906/07. His break with Rodin was followed by more years of travel; in between lived at Duino Castle near Trieste as a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn and Taxis, his most important patron. Wrote the first Duino Elegies there (finished in 1922 and published in 1923).
During World War I R. was for a short time active in the Austrian Landsturm (home reserves) and in the Vienna war archives, he then went to Munich and to Switzerland, where he found a new home at the small castle of Muzot in the Wallis. Died of leukaemia in Val-Mont sanatorium, his burial place is Raron cemetery in the Rhône valley.
R. was the most influential German-language poet in the first half of the 20th century. His early collections of poems "Das Buch der Bilder" (1902) and "Das Stunden-Buch" (1905) already displayed a suggestive rhythmic and pictorial language. The literary tendencies present at the turn of the century are noticeable in his texts. His novella "Die Weise von Liebe and Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke" (1906) became one of the most successful German-language books ever.
His novel "Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge" (1910) is characterised by images of misery and desolation. It is regarded as one of the first Modernist German-language novels and, for the author, marked a watershed to his main body of poetry, the 10 Duino Elegies. In these cantos, rhymeless and written in free rhythm, Rilke left impressionism behind. Until 1945 his influence on contemporary poetry was exceptionally strong; his artistic language and poetic form remain unequalled by his many imitators.
Further works: poetry: Leben und Lieder, 1894; Larenopfer, 1896; Wegwarten, 1896; Traumgekrönt, 1897; Advent, 1898; Mit zur Feier, 1898; Neue Gedichte, 1907; Der Neuen Gedichte anderer Teil, 1908; Requiem, 1909; Die frühen Gedichte, 1909; Erste Gedichte, 1913; Das Marien-Leben, 1913; Sonette an Orpheus, 1923; Späte Gedichte, 1934. - Prose: Am Leben hin, 1898; Zwei Prager Geschichten, 1899; Vom lieben Gott und anderes, 1900 (1904 under the title of "Geschichten vom lieben Gott"); Die Letzten, 1902; Worpswede, 1903; A. Rodin, 1903; Erzählungen und Skizzen aus der Frühzeit, 1928; Verse und Prosa aus dem Nachlaß, 1929. - Dramas: Jetzt und in der Stunde unseres Absterbens, 1896; Im Frühfrost, 1897; Ohne Gegenwart, 1898; Die weiße Fürstin, 1900; Das tägliche Leben, 1902. - Letters, diaries: Briefe an A. Rodin, 1928; Gesammelte Briefe, 6 vols., 1936-1939; Tagebücher aus der Frühzeit, 1942; Briefe, 2 vols., 1950; Briefwechsel in Gedichten mit E. Mitterer, 1950; Letters to: M. v. Thurn u. Taxis, 1951; L. Andreas-Salomé, 1952; A. Gide, 1952; K. Kippenberg, 1954; M. Zwetajewa and B. Pasternak, 1983. - Edition: Sämtl. Werke, 6 vols., ed. by R.-Archiv in Weimar, 1955-1966 (critical edition).
Literature: K. Klutz, R.-Bibliographie, 1975ff., in: Blätter der R.-Ges., 1978ff.; O. H. Olzien, R. M. R. Wirklichkeit und Sprache, 1984; D. A. Prater, Ein klingendes Glas. Das Leben R. M. R., 1986; H. Herzmann and H. Ridley (eds.), R. und der Wandel in der Sensibilität, 1990; H. Naumann, R. M. R. Stufen seines Werkes, 1995; I. Schnack, R. M. R. Chronik seines Lebens und seines Werks, 21996; P. Demetz (ed.), R. - ein europäischer Dichter aus Prag, 1998.