Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December 4 - Rainer Maria Rilke

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke was born on December 4, 1875, in Prague, in what was Austro-Hungarian Bohemia. The child of an unhappy marriage, as a youth Rilke was forced into military training, for which his intellect, artistic talents and sensibility were uniquely unsuited. In his 20’s he fell in love with a married woman of letters (who later studied with Sigmund Freud), and traveled with her throughout Europe. In Russia he met Leo Tolstoy, and in Paris, while serving for a time as secretary to sculptor Auguste Rodin, he began a period of creativity that included his first great work, The Book of Hours (1905), poems about the search for God and the nature of prayer; and a semi-autobiographical novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910), influenced by the works of Nietzsche, which explores man’s individuality and alienation in an increasingly indifferent world. Rilke was deeply scarred by World War I, which he was forced to endure in Germany. Afterward he wrote his greatest poems, the mystical and deeply religious Duino Elegies (1912-1922), in which his spirit rises from suffering to transcendence.

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