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The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

Rainer Maria Rilke
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Jun 2009 Penguin Twentieth Century Classics

While his old furniture rots in storage, Malte Laurids Brigge lives in a cheap room in Paris, with little but a library reader's card to distinguish him from the city's untouchables. Every person he sees seems to carry their death with them, and he thinks of the deaths, and ghosts, of his aristocratic family, of which only he remains. The only novel by one of the greatest writers of poetry in German, the semi-autobiographical Notebooks is an uneasy, compelling and poetic book that anticipated Sartre and is full of passages of lyrical brilliance.

Michael Hulse's new translation perfectly conveys the unsettling beauty of the original and is accompanied by an introduction on Rilke's life and the biographical and literary influences on the Notebooks. This edition also includes suggested further reading, a chronology and notes.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (4 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182216
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 13 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description


"One of the world's most beautiful books." -"The Philadelphia Inquirer"

About the Author

Michael Hulse has won numerous awards for his poetry, among them first prizes in the National Poetry Competition and the Bridport Poetry Competition (twice) as well as the Society of Authors' Eric Gregory Award and Cholmondeley Award. He has been editor of a literature classics series and of literary quarterlies, has scripted news and documentary programmes for Deutsche Welle television, and has taught at the universities of Erlangen, Eichstätt, Cologne, Zurich, and currently Warwick. Among over sixty books he has translated from the German are titles by W. G. Sebald and Elfriede Jelinek and, for Penguin, Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther and Jakob Wassermann's Caspar Hauser.

Rainer Maria Rilke was born in 1875 in Prague. He studied literature, art history and philosophy in both Munich and Prague, and is often considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets. His two most famous verse sequences are the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
"Letters to a young poet" made me interested in Rilke, and therefore "The Notebooks of Malthe Laurids Brigge" founds it way to my night stand.

Rilke's voice is very different in the two. "Notebooks" seems so much more orchestrated and not as quotable or easily read as "Letters". However, "Notebooks" has its own sombre drift that carries you - the reader - into the realm of the young Brigge, his thoughts and his childhood. What I like about the medium of a notebooks is its authenticity. It has the detail and rigid structure of many real notebooks and diaries, unlike many of fictional diaries that read as one continuous line of thought. This makes "Notebooks" personal and I found myself absorbing the thoughts.

Also "Notebooks" is to be read slowly or aloud to savor the poetry of the words. There are truly beautiful, detailed descriptions in "Notebooks" and I would recommend the book for this reason alone.

I was extremely grateful for the section of notes in the back of the book. Rilke makes reference to 14th century French kings, dukes and other noblemen, that I was completely unaware of.

I am sure that "Notebooks" deserve more than 3 stars. However, I must admit that my understanding of "Notebooks" only results in 3 stars. There is much in "Notebooks" to be analysed and deciphered.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Where Rilke's poetry can aspire to the transcendent, this novel is dark, very dark. This first person narrative is moody and intense, with flashes of brilliance, but not easy overall. Yes, many passages have the formal qualities of a prose poem. But Rilke's content is unexpected: you have to be in the right frame of mind to get along with this book.

The Danish narrator is in Paris - he has chosen to isolate himself from friends and family - and is struggling with an existentially-centered depression. The early entries establish that if he is from an aristocratic family, the narrator is deliberately living among the French poor, wanting to be anonymous and unknown. He is seeking escape from his past.

Quickly we discover that identity will be a major theme in Rilke's book: the narrator reflects on how medical science has changed our understanding of personality. The way people are sick, or die, is no longer an extension of their identity. All is now classified and catagorised according to symptoms. People don't bear an illness stoically; they respond to medication and treatment.

The narrator's reflections lead us deeper and deeper into his mind. It is brilliant, illuminating, and disturbing. If the book is visibly influenced by Knut Hamsun's Hunger, Rilke is far more brooding and introspective. You cannot speed through his novel.

And you have to go back at points and re-read. (The explanatory endnotes in this edition are essential - the conversation about Beethoven, who is not identified, would have been confusing without them - and there probably could be quite a few more.)
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Rilke's twenty-eight year old Danish alter-ego, is of primary interest for introducing themes and which the poet was to develop so skillfully in is later works, such as the Duino Elegies and the Sonnets of Orpheus. Brigge, a lonely poet seemingly trapped in a Paris of terrifying hospitals, hotels and sanitoriums, allows us into his (sometimes aimless) thoughts on solitude, love, absence and age.
Though at times Rilke's poeticism seems a little to imprecise for a prose work, it oftens gives us wonderful descriptions of life. A particular favourite of mine being the section often referred to as 'the Bird Feeders'.
The overall impression upon reading the Notebooks is that of viewing the transition of an artist from precocious (but often overly lyrical) poet to grandmaster of emotion. Whimsical, often amusing and emotive, anyone with an interest in Rilke's fine later poetry must read this.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good to try but probably an acquired taste 1 May 2010
By H. Tee
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the only novel of a famous German poet, Rainer Rilke written in 1910. I was attracted to the book because it is described on the back as `full of existential disquiet' - I know nothing of the author or style of poetry and thus was reading it without prejudice.

The book is in the form a notebook of thoughts of a `semi-autobiographical' Malte Brigge. The opening scenes are more contemporary of Malte's childhood and family, the majority of later scenes are his reflections on real historical characters of the 1300-1500's and some key events in their lives. There is no link or arc within the text holding the short passages together (unlike say Pessoa's Book of Disquiet) - what makes them whole is Brigge himself and his writing style which is in a poetic and challenging structure.

I know I've read a good classic book when I find passages worth remembering here are a few quotes for you:

`'the wish for a death of one's own is becoming ever more infrequent. Before long it will be just as uncommon as a life of one's own'

`is it possible to believe we could have a god without making use of him?'

`Oh how I trembled to be in the costume, and how thrilling it was when I actually wore it; when something emerged from the gloom, more slowly than oneself, for the mirror did not believe it, as it were, and, sleepy as it was, did not want promptly to repeat what it was told; though at length it had to, of course.

`I know that I am destined for the very worst, it will be no help at all if I disguise myself in my best clothes'

Now why have I only given this 3 stars then? I found two things too difficult for me to enjoy this book.
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