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The Book of Hours: Prayers to a Lowly God (European Poetry Classics) [Paperback]

Rainer Rilke , Annemarie S. Kidder

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; New edition edition (31 Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810118882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810118881
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.1 x 1.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 345,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This a complete translation of Rainer Maria Rilke's "The Book of Hours" that restores to the English-speaking reader a critical work in the development of a significant figure in 20th-century German poetry. Conveying an almost mystical conception of the relationship between God, the human being and nature, "The Book of Hours" ("Das Stundenbuch", first published in 1905) is a series of intimate prayers written as if by a Russian monk turned painter - writings that bring to bear the profound influence of Rilke's journeys to Russia and Italy at the turn of the century. A tripartite work comprised of "The Book of the Monkish Life", "The Book of Pilgrimage", and "The Book of Poverty and Death", the book is published here in a bilingual format, with the original German and the English translation on facing pages. Annemarie S. Kidder's translation imitates Rilke's uncomplicated and melodic flow, his rhythm and, where possible, his rhyme, while remaining true to content. Each line closely reflects the thought of the original as it strives to preserve Rilke's simplicity of style, economy of words, and candour in addressing God.

Kidder's introduction and commentary offer historical and interpretive background information, largely from Rilke's own diaries and correspondence, chronicling the influence of various geographical settings on the writing of "The Book of Hours" and illustrating his own spiritual quest. Also included are translated excerpts from an earlier manuscript of "The Book of Hours", along with prose inserts that interpret the reading of the poetry.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice to have a new, complete translation however... 26 Dec 2001
By David - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
I'd like to see a more careful (more direct) translation of this great work. This version is good, certainly a much better reading than the disastrously attempt at rewriting by Anita Barrows. But why rewrite and interpret in the translation, I'd prefer more precision. Some examples from the first page: the beautiful passage, 'I live my life in expanding (growing) circles' has a phrase 'Ich weiss noch nicht' very easy to translate as 'I know not yet' or 'I don't yet know' here it is translated as 'yet unclear of my role' (which adds interpretation, and misses some of the beauty of Rilkes style). And 'um den uralten Turm' is translated 'around the tower of old', which is not bad but isn't 'around the ancient tower.' more poetic? And the wonderous conclusion of the passage is 'bin ich ein Falke, ein Sturm oder ein grosser Gesang' which is translated as 'be it falcon or storm or another magnificent song? instead of the direct 'am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song'.

Another example in this paragraph is 'Ich kreise um Gott'.und ich kreise jahrtausendelang? this passage poetically uses the word 'kreise' twice to create a symmetry 'I circle around God'. and I circle (for) thousands of years? instead it is translated 'I circle around God and I spin amidst thousands of years' (which is very nice, but not what I see in the German). So for the paragraph we have 'I circle around God, around the tower of old, and I spin amidst thousands of years; yet unclear of my role, be it falcon or storm or another magnificent song.' instead of 'I circle around God, around the ancient tower, and I circle for thousands of years; and I know not yet, am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song.' Well, in any case, I do recommend this translation as the best available, but hope another will appear in the near future or this one will be revised.
Updated. now that I've done my own translation, I realize how difficult it is to translate poetry, so I'm give this one 4 stars. I think adding footnotes would help, by explaining the alternatives for translating a sentence and would help get the meaning through and free the translator to seek the poetic.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Capricious and inaccurate 27 May 2012
By Reinhart Poole - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
I would be remiss if I didn't warn you: This translation is extremely high handed and inaccurate. Ms. Kidder ignores adjectives to an alarming extent. Even important nouns are ignored for the sake of a haphazard rhyme scheme of her own invention that bears absolutely no relation to Rilke's.

The following example is typical:

Und manchmal bin ich wie der Baum,
der, reif unrauschend, über einem Grabe
den Traum erfüllt, den der vergangne Knabe
(um den sich seine warmen Wurzeln drängen)
verlor in Traurigkeiten und Gesängen.

Which Kidder translates as follows:

And sometimes I am like the tree
which, ripe and rustling above a grave,
fulfills himself the dream the boy
(round whom the living roots entwine)
once had and lost

vergangne (bygone or, perhaps erstwhile) the adjective that qualifies "Knabe" is ignored. "warmen Wurzeln" or "warm roots " is changed to the drier "living roots"
and "Traurigkeiten und Gesängen" - "Sorrows and singing" is completely ignored.
How does a translator ignore a line like "lost in sorrows and songs (or singing)". Also, what the hell is "fulfills himself the dream the boy" doing for us or Rilke?

Her capricious rhymes are baffling. They occur willy-nilly throughout, whenever she feels the urge or finds some opportunity to rhyme. Rilke's rhythms and meter seem to be of no consequence. Take this for instance:

Rilke's stanza goes like this:

Nur eine schmale Wand is zwischen uns,
durch Zufall; denn es könnte sein
ein Rufen deines oder meines Munds'
und sie bricht ein
ganz ohne Lärm un Laut.

Kidder translates:

Only a thin wall is between us,
mere happenstance; so there is a chance
that a call from your or my mouth
might break it down
without sound.

Kidder ignores "Lärm" (not to mention "ganz") in the last line and constructs a rhyme of "sound" with "down" and "mouth", making a rhyme scheme of ABCCC, where Rilke's is ABABC. Why sacrifice a beautiful word like "Lärm" or "noise" for the sake of a lame rhyme that has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
Also, the phrase "that a call from your or my mouth" (preservation of her scheme) sounds stiff in English where "that a call from your mouth or mine" would sacrifice nothing in sense and be more musical.

Or this line: "Wie bauen Bilder vor dir auf wie Wände" which Kidder translates as "We stockpile images of you like walls" forgoing the plainer more accurate and poetically satisfying "build up images of you like walls" for a "stockpile" which of course has nothing to do with walls (one doesn't stockpile walls, one constructs them builds them, piles them, erects them, or forms them. So go ahead and pile up images like walls. A stockpile, however, is a stockpile - 1. Something kept back or saved for future use or a special purpose; 2. a storage pile accumulated for future use). In short, the "stockpile" is too complicated an allusion here.

It just goes on and on: "sooft dich unsre Herzen offen sehn" is translated as "each time our hearts are wide" (again, to preserve a capricious rhyme) when "each time our hearts are open" (or `wide open", if you like) would be more accurate and evocative.
Why when Rilke writes "nach jeder Angst und jeder Nacht" does Kidder change the order of "worry" and "night " to read "after every night and every worry"?. Why not preserve the order and the rhythm by translating it "after every fear (or care, perhaps) and every night" (the dark after the fear)

I found it hard to trust this translation.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars You gotta be kidding me 13 Jan 2012
By Barnaby Thieme - Published on Amazon.com
My experience of Rilke is that most translations fall somewhere between "not very good" and "extremely awful." I have to say, even with low expectations, this book is disappointing. It's poorly translated and contains glaring typographical errors.

Kidder follows the rhyme scheme often but not always. Consider this baffling choice: "Du Dunkelheit, aus der ich stamme / ich liebe dich mehr als die Flamme" is rendered as "You darkness whence I came, / I love you more than the light."

What the huh? "Flamme" not only means flame, and not light, but "flame" rhymes with "came."

Joana Macy renders Rilke's "Ich liebe meines Wesens Dunkelstunde" as "I love the dark hours of my being." Kidder opts for "I love the hours when I'm blue, depressed."

I actually purchased this book for the German, not the translations, but the situation is not much better there. In the first line of a well-known and often-quoted poem from this collection, on the very first page, the book has "Ich lebe mein Leben ich wachsenden Ringen," instead of "Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen." This error is roughly on the order of "To boy or not to be."

A few pages later we get "Nachbarschft." Have you no copy editors, Northwestern University Press?

This book is an embarrassment.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rilke - Book of Hours - Stevie Krayer Translation 19 April 2010
By Matt - Published on Amazon.com
It is pity that ZenPoet's review comes up on the page selling Stevie Krayer's translation of Rilke's Book of Hours (Salzburg, 1995), because his/her review is of the Annemarie Kidder translation. Krayer passes the test of ZenPoet's justified complaints about the Kidder translation. Stevie Krayer's translation of the Book of Hours is the best that is possible to do in English. She inevitably loses rhythm and rhyme in staying close to Rilke's words and heart for his subject-matter. But the thread of the poems follows right through the three volumes within the Book of Hours. This translation is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the appauling Barrows/Macey translation, which is sadly a best-seller, and which turns Rilke into an American New Ager. The Stevie Krayer translation really allows the English reader to *study* Rilke's Book of Hours.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a poet speaks a unique language 27 Aug 2006
By Andrew Lovatt - Published on Amazon.com
the original weight and tone and turn of phrase are crucial to hearing Rilke "in his own voice". it is the sign of a genuinely gifted translator to achieve this - something of a self-less act, a putting aside of one's own prejudices and predilections in honour and respect for the poet's unique expression. a translator is not an editor and should seek to become transparent, not put him/herself in the way as a critical filter. this demands that the translator is fully "in tune" with the poet's "song". translating is an act of carrying-over, conveying something sacred in its most faithful form. it is clear that the translator comes from a background and has learned criteria that prejudice the translation of Rilke. the book of hours has become a vehicle for the translator's own views. and that is a great pity. i look forward to a new more faithful translation in the future - else i must take up german to properly appreciate Rilke's unique voice!

andrew lovatt - editor, deaddrunkdublin & other imaginal spaces
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