I read this much too slowly—and went on vacation to Miami in the middle—so the only impression it really made was that it was the third book in a row...moreI read this much too slowly—and went on vacation to Miami in the middle—so the only impression it really made was that it was the third book in a row in which a winter garden figures. It made me want to visit a winter garden. Must reread.(less)
The first hundred or so pages of this book put me into such hysteria, I have to give it all the stars. The latter bits not quite as stimulating— but s...moreThe first hundred or so pages of this book put me into such hysteria, I have to give it all the stars. The latter bits not quite as stimulating— but still!
I'm lazy and hopeless Peggy but honestly I do have a rum time.(less)
Not really the saddest—but maybe the most cynical.
For who in this world can give anyone a character? Who in this world knows anything of any other he
...moreNot really the saddest—but maybe the most cynical.
For who in this world can give anyone a character? Who in this world knows anything of any other heart—or of his own? I do not mean to say that one cannot form an average estimate of the way a person will behave. But one cannot be certain of the way any man will behave in every case—and until one can do that a "character" is of no use to anyone.
I'm surprised I liked the book so much because it's all telling, no showing. But the telling is extraordinary.(less)
In this town there were still some old quarrymen left, whose working day for 40 years began at 3 o'clock in the morning by making breakfas...morePista e Coza
In this town there were still some old quarrymen left, whose working day for 40 years began at 3 o'clock in the morning by making breakfast, before walking up the mountains to the quarries, carrying their boots to save the leather, with a fiasco of wine and a merenda tied in a bundle. A retired quarryman called Catossi had a great reputation as a gran' mangiatore, a real gourmand, and this is what he cooked.
Getting up in the dark, he took his stonemason's hammer and banged that recalcitrant object, a stoccafísso, unsoaked, to shreds on the marble kitchen table. He then pounded some tomatoes, parsley and garlic in a mortar, threw the shredded stock fish and pounded odori (the aromatics above) into a large earthenware casserole (padella), added a liberal quantity of olive oil (no water), and simmered it until all liquid was absorbed. He ate it with a slab of polenta. The colossal thirst this induced he slaked with alternate glasses of water and grappa.(less)
Rilke’s early letters are pretty ridiculous, so I was sucked into this correspondence with a lightened heart—and by the time I got to the writing of t...moreRilke’s early letters are pretty ridiculous, so I was sucked into this correspondence with a lightened heart—and by the time I got to the writing of the first Elegies, it was much too late for me to escape unscathed. Also Philadelphia’s unrelenting summer humidity set in as I read, so that as the intensity of the letters mounted I felt increasingly nauseated each day. Five stars for making me physically ill!
Here is what it's like:
RMR to LAS Duino Castle January10, 1912
. . . What distresses me this time is perhaps not even the length of the pause but rather a kind of dulling, a growing old, if one wants to call it that—as though what is strongest in me really had been damaged somehow, were a little bit to blame, were atmosphere, you understand: air instead of world-space. It may be that this continual inner distractedness in which I live is partly physical in origin, is a thinness of the blood; whenever I notice it, it fills me with reproaches for having let it get so far. No matter what awaits me: I still get up every day doubting whether I shall succeed in doing so; and these misgivings have grown to their present size through the actual experience of weeks, even months going by in which I produce only with the greatest exertions five lines of an utterly insipid letter, which, when they are finally there, leave an aftertaste of incompetence such as a cripple might feel who can't even shake hands anymore.
Can I, despite everything, move on through all this? If people happen to be present they offer me the relief of being able to be more or less the person they take me for, without being too particular about my actual existence. How often do I step out of my room as, so to speak, some chaos, and outside, perceived by someone else's mind, assume a composure that is actually his and in the next moment, to my astonishment, find myself expressing well-formed things, while just before everything in my entire consciousness was utterly amorphous. To whom am I saying this, dear Lou, indeed it is almost through you that I know this is the way things are, you see how little has changed, —and in this sense people will always be the wrong thing for me, something that galvanizes my lifelessness without remedying it. . . .
RMR to LAS Duino Castle February 7, 1912
. . . Clara said, as you, I believe, learned in Weimar from Gebsattel, —that she wants our divorce, I understand this very well, unfortunately the thing will be lengthy and drag on. There is no ill will between us, but as my wife she does, so to speak, go around falsely labeled, is not with me and yet cannot move on to anything free of me. It is strange: our relationship consisted of her infinitely and unreservedly affirming and accepting me, and then, as she realized how much she had signed onto there that is absolutely alien, even hostile to her, reversing into wholesale rejection. If behind all this one looks for her, for what she has become since the end of her girlhood, one finds (her motherly care and her relationship with Ruth excepted) nothing tangible, nothing but this alternating function of ingesting me and expelling me, and if, as I hope, the analysis succeeds in completely getting rid of me (apparently as pest in her nature after all), then she will presumably have to start up again at that point where I entered and interrupted her . . . Gradually (under the pressure of her decision and my need for someone who can help me, stand by me, offer me protection) I have come to understand why nothing real could come of us living side by side: because she was either my double with all her strengths and thus too much for me, or else my antagonist and thus of course an advocatus diaboli, a pale reverser and endless opponent, without personal background of her own. The many things she herself may have suffered in this are almost impossible fully to identify, but at any rate it was for both of us futile and hopeless. The beautiful letters she sometimes wrote were mine, my letters, letters in my key, or else she did not write at all. I remember when she was in Egypt, a few accounts of her trip arrived, I read parts of them to our intimate circle in Capri: all were amazed, were certain: this could have been written by me. Then she returned, I was full of anticipation, but my mouth dried up, aside from a few inconveniences and mishaps she brought back nothing to tell me, absolutely nothing, because she could never quite make herself echo my way of speaking. How often did I ask myself in sorrow: who is she, by what means does she express herself? For not even her work is a genuine means of expression for her: this was, when I discovered it, quite early on, so immediately bizarre to me—that someone should be working in art without having come to it through her own inner expansion; I often teased her about this enigmatic origin of her sculpting, which was there without anyone knowing where it had come from; was simply there and got better and better, but without being necessary to satisfy some inner urge or demand. Once it reached excellence it was simply carried on industriously and rigorously and honestly, somewhat like a well-maintained dépendence for which cooking is done in the main house—; but it never became that for which something inside her screamed, screamed in order to plunge herself into it head over heels no matter what the cost. Later I stopped teasing, I saw the impending doom in these accomplishments into which nothing ever entered except strength, pure, as it were colorless strength, never a heart-surge, never anything that achieved its equanimity there, —always only this equanimity itself. Thus finally the exhaustion after all, the feeling of an unending repetition, the Buddha-idea that came as such a relief because, in a manner of speaking, it discharged the rhythm of these monotonous exertions.
Many of LAS's letters were lost, so there is quite a bit more of Rilke in this volume.(less)