cover image Rilke in Paris

Rilke in Paris

Rainer Maria Rilke and Maurice Betz, trans. from the German and French by Will Stone. Pushkin, $15.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-78227-474-2

French publisher and translator Betz’s 1941 account, here in its first English translation, of Rainer Maria Rilke’s time spent living in Paris, provides an intriguing if less than fully satisfying glimpse of early-20th-century literary Paris. Betz, who translated many of Rilke’s works into French, begins by explaining that the poet first arrived in Paris in 1902 in order to write about Rodin, becoming the sculptor’s sometimes abject disciple: “Most revered master... My soul opens to your words.” Later, Rilke and Rodin had a break, and Rilke came to love Paris itself, intermittently residing in the city until 1914, and returning there in 1925, when he and Betz met. Modern readers will likely find the grand pronouncements Betz quotes Rilke making—“Paris is... so content with its greatness and smallness that it can’t distinguish between them”—rather bizarre. A strong plus for this volume is Rilke’s fine “Notes on the Melodies of Things,” included at the end, a short series of aphoristic ruminations inspired by his studies of Italian Renaissance painting. While Stone’s introduction provides some explanation of this book’s background, a lay reader is likely to crave more context for its significance to Rilke’s work, and a stronger rationale, beyond Rilke’s fame, for its belated publication in English. (June)