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A Life

By (author) Wolfgang Leppmann
Format: Hardback
Publisher: James Clarke & Co Ltd, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Imprint: Lutterworth Press
Published: 31st Mar 1985
Dimensions: w 144mm h 222mm d 32mm
Weight: 560g
ISBN-10: 0718826205
ISBN-13: 9780718826208
Barcode No: 9780718826208

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Kirkus US
Leppmann (German Literature, Univ. of Oregon) offers no great speculative leaps or critical insights in this biographical study of Rainer Maria Rilke. But he also avoids tendentious pedantry and rhapsodic flights - providing a solid, satisfying life-and-work. Each aspect of Rilke's personal history is well-covered here: his early childhood, when "Rene" was raised as if he were a girl; the sharp, sudden reversal when he was later enrolled in a military school (the unsurprising remit was a dual male/female quality, very attractive to women); his perfectly awful first published verse; his shrewd careerism; his lifelong liaison with Lou Andreas-Salome; his marriage to artist Clara Westhoff, fathering a daughter who was all but exiled for most of her youth; Rilke's strange role as amanuensis to the sculptor Rodin; and his successive stays in rich, aristocratic mansions as the guest of contessas. Through it all, of course, there is also the writing of the major works - The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, the Duino Elegies, the Sonnets to Orpheus. And Leppman treats them with wise balance - never snide, never gushy: he finds Brigge remarkably before its time but also frequently obscure and flaccid; he notes the brilliant psychological states evoked in the Duino Elegies, but he moves past them to discuss the poems' equally amazing linguistic density. In sum: a sturdy, reliable mixture of analysis, fact, and detachment - reminiscent of Joachim Maass' recent, similarly admirable Kleist biography (1983). (Kirkus Reviews)