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The Book of Images

4.44  ·  Rating Details ·  992 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Now substantially revised by Edward Snow, whom Denise Levertov once called "far and away Rilke's best translator," this bilingual edition of The Book of Images contains a number of the great poet's previously untranslated pieces. Also included are several of Rilke's best-loved lyrics, such as "Autumn," "Childhood," "Lament," "Evening," and "Entrance."
Paperback, 280 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by North Point Press (first published January 1st 1919)
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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilWar and Peace by Leo TolstoyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldDuino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke
Books To Read Before I Die
40th out of 133 books — 121 voters
The Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilThe Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria RilkeThe Trial by Franz KafkaThe Lord Chandos Letter by Hugo von HofmannsthalDie Dämonen by Heimito von Doderer
Best Austrian Literature
63rd out of 222 books — 125 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter


(Herbstlandschaft, Ferdinand Hodler)

Rainer Maria Rilke Buch der Bilder contains an amazing palette of images and impressions ranging from Spring and childhood to Autumn and old age. Death, despair and mortality play a central role in his impressionistic verse. Rilke's poetry possesses a lyrical grace and mystical quality that has a strong hypnotic effect on the reader:


Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in
Sep 24, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A noite, agitada por crescentes tempestades,
como se torna subitamente imensa -,
como se habitualmente estivesse recolhida
nas ínfimas dobras do tempo.
Não acaba onde as estrelas tentam detê-la
nem começa no meio da floresta,
nem no meu semblante
nem na tua forma.
Os candeeiros balbuciam e não sabem:
mentimos luz?
É a noite a única realidade
desde há milhares de anos...
Oct 07, 2008 Mr. rated it it was amazing
There is very little question that Rilke was the greatest German poet of the 20th century. The only question that remains is whether he was the greatest poet in any language. His brief, imaginative poems capture the essence of man in the modern period, alone, isolated, and without meaning.

Edward Snow has captured the grace and subtle imagery of Rilke in this altogether outstanding collection of poems, in large part because he is a great poet in his own right. Readers of Rilke will surely be fam
David Haight
Aug 09, 2012 David Haight rated it it was amazing
Most people reach for The Letters or the Duino Elegies. Now the Elegies are without a doubt Rilke's best work but the Book of Images was really the book that brought me into Rilke's world and showed me how great of a poet he is. The Duino Elegies one comes back to over a lifetime - they are epic. But the poems here are smaller in scale but they are no less effective in their lyricism, their beauty and their melancholy. "I am like a flag surrounded by distances." Lines like these are etched in im ...more
Feb 16, 2012 Tracy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is my very favourite book of poetry. It so beautiful it hurts my heart. I've bought extra copies of it and given it away.
Jun 05, 2016 Eadweard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry

Who is there who so loves me,
that he will throw away his own dear life?
If someone will die for me in the ocean,
I will be brought back from stone into life,
into life redeemed.
How I long for blood’s rushing; stone is so still.
I dream of life: life is good.
Has no one the courage through which I might awaken? And if I once more find myself in life,
given everything most golden,—
then I will weep alone, weep for my stone.
What help will my blood be, when it ripens like wi
Jan 25, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Especially wonderful if you are afraid of or intimidated by poetry.

I enjoyed having the english translation next to the original german because I understand some german.

I've been told that this specific translation and translator keeps us as closer to the original words of Rilke than translations by others. Wish I understood and could read these more fully in german. I always wonder if we miss subtleties and deeper understanding when not reading any author's works not in his or her native tong
Jun 06, 2016 metaphor rated it liked it
[…] there are poets who learn from you
to say, what you, in your aloneness, are;
and they learn through you to live distantness,
as the evenings through the great stars
become accustomed to eternity.
MyACPL Athens County Public Libraries
from Todd Bastin:

Rilke was a Bohemian-German poet (from what is now the Czech Republic) whose career flourished from the 1890s well into the 1920s, and whose quality of work kept steadily improving in the course of his career. North Point Press has released nearly all Rilke's work in excellent translation by poet, teacher and scholar Edward Snow. This particular volume, from the middle of Rilke's career, is worth reviewing because it gets strangely ignored in surveys of his life. It covers diver
Oct 10, 2009 SooYoung rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the masses
I've been "reading" this for a while. Basically whenever I'm in need of some good poetry I pick it up.
I'm torn when I read works in translation because do I love the poet or the translator? I've read other works by Rilke (ie other translations) and have really enjoyed them, so definitely giving my props to Rilke. He offers up beautiful imagery like: "I want to become like one of those / who drive through the night with wild horses / with torches, which like unloosened hair / blow in the great wi
Jul 18, 2015 Chelsea rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This isn't my first time reading Rilke's work, but it took me a little bit to get the feel for The Book of Images. It's beautifully written but that seems to be the only real connecting thread. The poems deal a lot with romanticized history -- men on the battlefront, Tsars, Italian aristocracy -- but it also captures people in moments of vulnerability. The second part of the second book is really the strongest, in my opinion, with some of my favorite poems -- The Blind Woman, The Voices poem cyc ...more
Antonio Delgado
Apr 07, 2016 Antonio Delgado rated it it was amazing
images, the words of images, weight heavy, heavier than time and things.
Giorgi Komakhidze
Sep 04, 2016 Giorgi Komakhidze rated it really liked it
Shelves: german

It wasn't his, it wasn't my fault,
we both had nothing except patience,
but Death has none.
Mar 15, 2015 Serena rated it really liked it
obviously not as mesmerizing as letters to a young poet. still very nice.

"and again my inmost life rushes louder, as if it moved now between steeper banks. objects become ever more related to me, and all pictures ever more pursued. i feel myself more trusting in the nameless: with my senses, as with birds, I reach into the windy heavens from the oak, and into the small ponds' broken-off day my feeling sinks, as if it stood on fishes." from progress.
Apr 23, 2007 ruzmarì rated it really liked it
Shelves: poesia
The first Rilke collection I ever read. Some of the poems will be with me for life. Some have faded. These poems are like masterful postcards of stained glass, whose color you learn to appreciate with time, as it becomes nuanced and fainter in places. When the light comes through these panels, though, it shines with an unmatched vibrancy on an unexpected host. Those moments make it worth reading this collection again and again.
Apr 06, 2009 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fledgelings and fleshlings
Shelves: poetry
This is probably my favorite Rilke series, and I feel the least troubled by translation issues with Snow at the helm. He uses language that's contemporary, but not devoid of poetic feeling.

Extra points because he didn't massacre the poem, Evening "Abend", which permanently resides in my brain from Norton's somewhat archaic, but still lovely translation. He even opened it up a little for me with his contemporary flair.
Jul 01, 2013 Plato rated it it was amazing
He has a most definite style with he uses for his advantage and of course to an almost rhythmically perfect and visually spectacular effect. The poetry here stands out as shining example of the poets ability to weave the German word effortlessly. They roll off the tongue as smooth as the red Sun setting behind a dusky horizon on some Autumn evening.

Pleasing but hitting hard. Or is it hard hitting?
Jun 20, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed having the original German side-by-side with the English translation (even though my grasp of German is, let's just say, less than elementary). Aside from that, I think Rilke is an underrated poet well worth reading. This book is a good start.
Mar 02, 2013 Brian rated it liked it
An accessible translation of a series of poems written about 100 years ago. Many of the themes and images still resonate. A good introduction to German poetry for English speakers learning German.
Dec 21, 2014 Murphy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There is so much beauty in each of these poems. I'll have to pick up this book so I can have the pleasure of reading them whenever I want.
Jens Peters
Jul 14, 2007 Jens Peters rated it it was amazing
Lovely poetry, and very readable. Enough narration to just go on reading, but equally dense enough to stop anywhere and start thinking.
Bailey Robertson
Apr 16, 2011 Bailey Robertson rated it liked it
My first Rainer Maria Rilke and I liked it. Not as magical as I thought it would be, but I don't know what I expected.
Aug 26, 2011 John rated it really liked it
Really uneven, but as long as you stay away from most of the poem cycles you're bound to find great stuff in here.
First Last
Dec 29, 2012 First Last rated it it was amazing
Wonderful words. Another Simic - or maybe I have that backwards - Simic is another Rilke.
David E. Starr
Jun 20, 2012 David E. Starr rated it it was amazing
I love me some Rilke. Very good translations of very much of his work.
Sep 16, 2011 Jillian rated it it was amazing
best ever. there is none that is better than this. this is it. that is all.
Sep 06, 2013 Kymm rated it liked it
if only religion didn't ruin perfectly sexy poetry with chastity and piousness.
April Marriner
Sep 26, 2013 April Marriner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-live-life-by
Whatever page you open into Rilke, you find magic and truth.
Jun 01, 2009 Anna rated it it was amazing
I'm a Rilke dilitante, but I'm really enjoying this one.
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Rilke Translation 1 13 Jan 02, 2010 06:56PM  
  • Poem of the Deep Song
  • Baudelaire: Poems
  • The Great Fires
  • Astonishments: Selected Poems
  • The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai
  • Selected Poems
  • Ezra Pound: Translations
  • The Collected Poems
  • Book of Mercy
  • Fernando Pessoa and Co.: Selected Poems
  • The October Palace
  • Darkness Spoken: The Collected Poems of Ingeborg Bachmann
  • A Season in Hell & Illuminations
  • Words for the Wind: The Collected Verse
  • The Selected Poems
  • Migration: New and Selected Poems
  • Selected Poems: 1931-2004
  • Poems of Paul Celan
Rainer Maria Rilke is considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets.

His haunting images tend to focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety — themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.

He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two mos
More about Rainer Maria Rilke...

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“Girls, there are poets who learn from you
to say, what you, in your aloneness, are;
and they learn through you to live distantness,
as the evenings through the great stars
become accustomed to eternity.”
“Whoever you are: in the evening step out
of your room, where you know everything;
yours is the last house before the far-off:
whoever you are.
With your eyes, which in their weariness
barely free themselves from the worn-out threshold,
you lift very slowly one black tree
and place it against the sky: slender, alone.
And you have made the world. And it is huge
and like a word which grows ripe in silence.
And as your will seizes on its meaning,
tenderly your eyes let it go...”
More quotes…