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Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose

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The reputation of Rainer Maria Rilke has grown steadily since his death in 1926; today he is widely considered to be the greatest poet of the twentieth century. This Modern Library edition presents Stephen Mitchell’s acclaimed translations of Rilke, which have won praise for their re-creation of the poet’s rich formal music and depth of thought. “If Rilke had written in The reputation of Rainer Maria Rilke has grown steadily since his death in 1926; today he is widely considered to be the greatest poet of the twentieth century. This Modern Library edition presents Stephen Mitchell’s acclaimed translations of Rilke, which have won praise for their re-creation of the poet’s rich formal music and depth of thought. “If Rilke had written in English,” Denis Donoghue wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “he would have written in this English.” Ahead of All Parting is an abundant selection of Rilke’s lifework. It contains representative poems from his early collections The Book of Hours and The Book of Pictures; many selections from the revolutionary New Poems, which drew inspiration from Rodin and Cezanne; the hitherto little-known “Requiem for a Friend”; and a generous selection of the late uncollected poems, which constitute some of his finest work. Included too are passages from Rilke’s influential novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, and nine of his brilliant uncollected prose pieces. Finally, the book presents the poet’s two greatest masterpieces in their entirety: the Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. “Rilke’s voice, with its extraordinary combination of formality, power, speed and lightness, can be heard in Mr. Mitchell’s versions more clearly than in any others,” said W. S. Merwin. “His work is masterful.”


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The reputation of Rainer Maria Rilke has grown steadily since his death in 1926; today he is widely considered to be the greatest poet of the twentieth century. This Modern Library edition presents Stephen Mitchell’s acclaimed translations of Rilke, which have won praise for their re-creation of the poet’s rich formal music and depth of thought. “If Rilke had written in The reputation of Rainer Maria Rilke has grown steadily since his death in 1926; today he is widely considered to be the greatest poet of the twentieth century. This Modern Library edition presents Stephen Mitchell’s acclaimed translations of Rilke, which have won praise for their re-creation of the poet’s rich formal music and depth of thought. “If Rilke had written in English,” Denis Donoghue wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “he would have written in this English.” Ahead of All Parting is an abundant selection of Rilke’s lifework. It contains representative poems from his early collections The Book of Hours and The Book of Pictures; many selections from the revolutionary New Poems, which drew inspiration from Rodin and Cezanne; the hitherto little-known “Requiem for a Friend”; and a generous selection of the late uncollected poems, which constitute some of his finest work. Included too are passages from Rilke’s influential novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, and nine of his brilliant uncollected prose pieces. Finally, the book presents the poet’s two greatest masterpieces in their entirety: the Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. “Rilke’s voice, with its extraordinary combination of formality, power, speed and lightness, can be heard in Mr. Mitchell’s versions more clearly than in any others,” said W. S. Merwin. “His work is masterful.”

30 review for Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michel Schreiner

    Read before bed...it will give you beautiful dreams

  2. 4 out of 5

    Minoo

    At one point, I must have had every Rilke book that was translated into English. He is simply amazing. I ended up bequeathing the collection to a friend, who also felt the same about him. This book has been a wonderful companion and is always close at hand. I love the translations and the inter-paginated German and English. It has all of his major works, including Sonnets to Orpheus and The Duino Elegies. It also has plenty of poems, prose, and tons of great end-notes from his personal letters. At one point, I must have had every Rilke book that was translated into English. He is simply amazing. I ended up bequeathing the collection to a friend, who also felt the same about him. This book has been a wonderful companion and is always close at hand. I love the translations and the inter-paginated German and English. It has all of his major works, including Sonnets to Orpheus and The Duino Elegies. It also has plenty of poems, prose, and tons of great end-notes from his personal letters. If you want to get into the heart of Rilke, this book will get you beating to the rhythm. I live my life in widening rings which spread over earth and sky. I may not ever complete the last one, but that is what I will try. I circle around God, the primordial tower, and I circle ten thousand years long; and I still don't know if I'm a falcon, a storm, or an unfinished song.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Qurratulain

    This is honestly the best thing I have ever read. It took me forever to get through it because I kept stopping to highlight lines on every page. It's a masterpiece. A freaking masterpiece, I'm telling you.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bekki

    This is the first book in my life that I read cover to cover twice in a row, and there is still more depth to explore. I read every line, let it sink into my mind and arouse emotion fully. I believe this is called surrender. Rilke is a very obvious existentialist. There is a fundamental quality to his writing and to his topics that make each metaphor matter. Beware - he does not think of angels in the Christian sense, nor does he speak of God in the Christian sense. However I felt I was able to This is the first book in my life that I read cover to cover twice in a row, and there is still more depth to explore. I read every line, let it sink into my mind and arouse emotion fully. I believe this is called surrender. Rilke is a very obvious existentialist. There is a fundamental quality to his writing and to his topics that make each metaphor matter. Beware - he does not think of angels in the Christian sense, nor does he speak of God in the Christian sense. However I felt I was able to explore the concepts in spirituality he presents because I knew that he was not assuming the reader knows the definitions of the words he uses.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ann Michael

    This is Stephen Mitchell's translation. I wish I could read the original. So far, I prefer Mitchell's translations to others I have read. I especially liked the prose translations. I'd like to hear other thoughts re: whose translations of Rilke are "best" and why.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lexie

    This is one of my desert-island books ... I first encountered Rilke in 1984 ... He is my poet of poets ... and Stephen Mitchell's translations are unsurpassed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Friedrick

    If you read no other selection of Rilke's poetry, read this one. The selection is comprehensive, and Mitchell's translations are outstanding.

  9. 4 out of 5

    viola

    one day i'll have this entire thing memorized.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    In some ways this book is beyond writing about for me at the moment. It is profoundly and transcendently beautiful and heavy. Some of the best writing on grief, love, art, and our yearning for and often futile grasping at the beyond. I've perused many translations of Rilke's poetry, and there are other approaches I also enjoy, but Stephen Mitchell's work here stands above them, for me. The others feel too smooth. Here there is beauty but also the testing and folding and stretching of language In some ways this book is beyond writing about for me at the moment. It is profoundly and transcendently beautiful and heavy. Some of the best writing on grief, love, art, and our yearning for and often futile grasping at the beyond. I've perused many translations of Rilke's poetry, and there are other approaches I also enjoy, but Stephen Mitchell's work here stands above them, for me. The others feel too smooth. Here there is beauty but also the testing and folding and stretching of language aimed at something that must almost by definition remain beyond and ungraspable. This collection (as stated in the title) also includes some prose work by Rilke, which I read last because it seemed less urgent to me... but then upon reading it found it to be, again, profound, beautiful, and challenging. (All the poetry is presented in bilingual form on facing pages. The prose includes only the English translation.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    I keep this on my desk at work and dip in several times a week instead of mindless computer browsing. For that reason, I may be "currently reading" it for some time. Dual language edition, so an excellent way to continue to read in German, plus lose little in translation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lulua

    Beautiful wordplay, although I wish Rilke's poems had themes I could relate to.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Possum Paderau

    I need to stop adding poetry to my list on the basis of one line I saw on tumblr. I'm almost certain these poems are better in German but they were a little flat and repetitive in English.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kajah

    Simply the most compelling poetry I've come across thus far. Alongside each translation is the original poem in German, which is quite satisfying to read, even if just for the rhythm and timbre. Steven Mitchell, as always, presents what seems like a sensitive and confident translation. While I don't speak German, the unique power of most of these poems seem so particular to a individual's creative flair. Even if the overwhelmingly positve reviews of Mitchell's translation are wrong, and the Simply the most compelling poetry I've come across thus far. Alongside each translation is the original poem in German, which is quite satisfying to read, even if just for the rhythm and timbre. Steven Mitchell, as always, presents what seems like a sensitive and confident translation. While I don't speak German, the unique power of most of these poems seem so particular to a individual's creative flair. Even if the overwhelmingly positve reviews of Mitchell's translation are wrong, and the translations are not reflective of Rilke's original work, then Mitchell must have transcended the German originals.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sophie Fletcher

    This translation of Rilke is first class and the selection of writing unparalleled. It has all the classics as well as lesser known fragments and prose - it gives a rare glimpse into the breath of Rilke's work. There are still some poems where the translation doesn't quite capture the original meaning, however that will always be the case and because it's dual text, you can read both the German and the English. I love always dipping into it and finding something new. One of my favourite books This translation of Rilke is first class and the selection of writing unparalleled. It has all the classics as well as lesser known fragments and prose - it gives a rare glimpse into the breath of Rilke's work. There are still some poems where the translation doesn't quite capture the original meaning, however that will always be the case and because it's dual text, you can read both the German and the English. I love always dipping into it and finding something new. One of my favourite books without a doubt and if you are interested in reading Rilke this is definitely the book to buy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Em

    "Yes, the springtime were in need of you. Often a star waited for you to espy it and sense its light. A wave rolled toward you out of the distant past, or as you walked below an open window, a violin gave itself to your hearing. All this was trust. But could you manage it? Were you not always distraught by expectation, as if all this were announcing the arrival of a beloved? (Where would you find a place to hide her, with all your great strange thoughts coming and going and often staying for the night?)"

  17. 5 out of 5

    Logan

    3.5 stars The poetry was good---nothing amazing to my ears---but what really made this stand out was the prose. The selected short stories (around halfway through the book) are what makes this collection; each one is gorgeous and amazing in their own right. I wish there existed some collection of only Rilke's prose, but this'll do for now, and I'm very happy for having read it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful Rilke makes my mind feel full while I puzzle out meanings and emotions and connections that change with every line I read. One day I'm learning German just to read it without translation.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Victor

    Lovestruck poetry at its finest. Admonishingly adorned with prescient, melancholy observation transmogrified into solemnly amorous combinations of symbols; Rilke's poetry and prose is sad, intelligent and, a common result of the partnership of those two qualities, beautiful.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brit

    Basically brought here by Mary Zimmerman.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maria Lancaster

    This is a really wonderful translation of Rilke's work by Stephen Mitchell.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Rilke reassures me, always. Wow.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Love.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    this man saved my life in 1999. love him. haven't read this yet but knowing it has been in my collection has been more than a comfort even still. love him. bedtime reading

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laren

    translated by stephen mitchell... best translations of rilke

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    The Elegies are beautiful, easily my favorite works from this collection.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kriss

    Love. Love. Love. Love. I love him.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Bock

    Desert island book. Beautiful, thoughtful, this man is a genius.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Potter

    this book changed my life- a must read for anyone who wants to peek inside ones soul

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    This is a nice collection for it holds most of his best prose.

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