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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Monday 26 September 2005

Rilke's politics

In a letter dated in 19th August edition of the TLS, Fred Bridgham writes of Rilke's politics:

Leo Lensing understandably laments the omission of a sentence (explaining how "Rilke lost his head for a few days in August 1914") from an essay of his published in A New History of German Literature, which allowed the poet's "Funf Gesange" to be construed as "an attack on war" (Letters, August 5). These little-known cantos welcome the sudden "authoritative" appearance of "the God of War", the intoxication of a communal mission, even the naturalness of "the human harvest" about to begin, before the celebrant has second thoughts, retreating into some of the most remarkable linguistic contortionism in the language. Yet Rilke's analogical thinking, further buttressed by the quasi-divine "dictation" of the remaining "Duineser Elegien" in 1922, allowed him to welcome Mussolini, too, as an "authoritative" dictator.

I mention this as I've been dipping into Rilke again (Duino Elegies) recently whilst impatiently waiting for Michael Hofmann's The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems to land.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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