Reading Rilke by William H. Gass
Reflections on the Problems of Translation

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Synopsis

The greatly admired essayist, novelist, and philosopher, author of Cartesian Sonata, Finding a Form, and The Tunnel, reflects on the art of translation and on Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies -- and gives us his own translation of Rilke's masterwork.

After nearly a lifetime of reading Rilke in English, William Gass undertook the task of translating Rilke's writing in order to see if he could, in that way, get closer to the work he so deeply admired. With Gass's own background in philosophy, it seemed natural to begin with the Duino Elegies, the poems in which Rilke's ideas are most fully expressed and which as a group are important not only as one of the supreme poetic achievements of the West but also because of the way in which they came to be written -- in a storm of inspiration.

Gass examines the genesis of the ideas that inform the Elegies and discusses previous translations. He writes, as well, about Rilke the man: his character, his relationships, his life.
Finally, his extraordinary translation of the Duino Elegies offers us the experience of reading Rilke with a new and fuller understanding.
 

About William H. Gass

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William H. Gass-essayist, novelist, literary critic-was born in Fargo, North Dakota. He is the author of two novels, The Tunnel and Omensetter's Luck, and eight books of essays, including A Temple of Texts, Tests of Time, and Finding a Form. Gass is a former professor of philosophy at Washington University. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, the architect Mary Henderson Gass.
 
Published August 7, 2013 by Knopf. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Reading Rilke

Kirkus Reviews

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Free to see and feel afresh the very world it’s been freed from.” A book not only for people interested in Rilke or Gass, but for anyone who takes poetry seriously.

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Publishers Weekly

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In 1922, four years before he died of leukemia at age 51, Rilke finally completed the Duino Elegies, named for the castle where they poured out over an intensive four day (and night) period; within da

Aug 30 1999 | Read Full Review of Reading Rilke: Reflections on...

Publishers Weekly

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(Translations of all 10 elegies appear in an appendix at the book's end.) That said, Gass has an impressive ear for dramatic prosody, and a sensitivity to Rilke's playfulness and formal elegance (especially in the Tenth Elegy).

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Austin Chronicle

Even William Gass, whose soberly titled Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation stylishly studies the life and work of the poet, writes: "-- He takes the European lyric to new levels of achievement -- forming, with Valery and Yeats perhaps, a true triune god -- and creates the t...

Nov 26 1999 | Read Full Review of Reading Rilke: Reflections on...

Boston Review

His book, Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation, prefaces his own translation with almost two-hundred pages of glittering commentary on the Elegies, blow-by-blow reportage from the gladiator pit of Duino translators, a recitation of rare of ...

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