By turns inspiring and challenging, this collection of letters from the lyrical poet Rilke to an aspiring poet offers wise insights on more than just a career as a writer. Solitude, life, love, faith, sorrow, pain, healing and work are all explored with a sincerity that rings through the words, leaving echoes in the soul that offer comfort and encouragement.
Not everyone will enjoy the philosophical meanderings as Rilke gently attempts to guide a young stranger into a deeper, more meaningful experience of life.
I did enjoy them; at times, his words affirmed life experiences I’ve had for myself. I’ve learnt to accept my strong desire for solitude: Rilke speaks of solitude as an essential part of the human condition. He says, “The necessary thing is after all but this: solitude, great inner solitude.”
At other times, Rilke’s words illuminated interesting perceptions, as when he touched on feminism in Letter Seven. Written in 1904, modern feminism was in its birth throes. Rilke concludes his observations with the belief that feminism will reshape the love-experience “into a relation that is meant to be of one human being to another, no longer man to woman…the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.”
His poetic genius lies in that, with his tender and compassionate answer to the fears and lonely doubts that haunt so many, he pre-empted many of the “new age” authors of today by nearly a hundred years. His struggle and his sincerity are obvious; this adds piquancy to what was then a different way of looking at life. Even today, one can find in this book much to linger over.