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The Book of Images

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,212 ratings  ·  53 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, 284 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by North Point Press (first published January 1st 1919)
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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 ·  1,212 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florencia by: Jean-Paul and Waqas' reviews
I would like to step out of my hearts door
and be under the great sky.

Rilke, Lament

A myriad of shades, a plethora of images, the juxtaposition of sentiments which soothe and unsettle. A miscellany of visuals and existential hues. A mélange of nuances and distinctive sounds. A sense of clarity with the scent of perplexity. The mystical and the ordinary fluctuate in harmony. Chaotic perfection takes this collection by storm. A vision. A metaphor. A book. A thousand mirrors. The book of images. Das
Manuel Antão
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2016
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Re-Imagining Rilke's Metaphor in Portuguese: "O Livro das Imagens" by Rilke, Maria João Costa Pereira.

One of main reasons for having enrolled in German classes was just to be able to read Rilke in the original. That's how much I loved him. I still do. Das Buch der Bilder (The book of Images/O Livro das Imagens) was the book that showed me, back in the day, I still had a long road ahead me before I could say I was able to read Rilke in
Oct 07, 2008 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
Aug 23, 2011 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.
Aug 14, 2015 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 bloods 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
David Haight
Aug 09, 2012 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 ...more
Jan 25, 2014 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
Ana Calabresi
Jun 20, 2017 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I really wanted to read this book, but I guess it was not the right time for me. I couldn't concentrate on the poetry itself and be able to appreciate the language. Maybe I'll come back to it later?
Jun 04, 2016 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.
Sep 06, 2013 rated it liked it
if only religion didn't ruin perfectly sexy poetry with chastity and piousness.
Nick Scandy
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nights like these, there is suddenly
fire in an opera house. Like some huge monster
the cavernous space with its circles of thousands, who crowd inside it,
starts to chew.
Women and men
jam the passageways,
and as they all cling together,
the masonry bursts, and takes them with it.
And the one farthest down hasn't a chance:
while someone's already stamped out his heart,
his ears are still full of music,
which plays as he fades . . .

(Kind of large volume here. And while it drags a bit in places, es ist sehr
Jordan Ortega
Rilkes lines are touching as they are melancholic. However carefully-written his lines are, the topics his poems are about deterred me from enjoying the book as a whole. Perhaps it is me who needs to appreciate poetry regardless of the topics. ...more
Robert Frecer
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brief and evocative, some poems hit very close to home. I admire the Czech translation, which must have been hard to compose.
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"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 pond's broken-off day
my feeling sinks, as if it stood on fishes." ("Progress")
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
You experience much by observing.
James Hill
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Al Maki
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I find the idea of reviewing Rilke intimidating. I think he was one of the greatest modern poets and a substantial amount of what he wrote is beyond my ability to take in. As well as the astonishing skill and the depth of his honesty and thought there is the problem of language. Most of what I get, I get from translation, but my German is good enough to see that the translations are far from perfect. I don't fault the translator for the imperfection since I don't believe it's anymore possible to ...more
Jan 06, 2008 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
Jun 16, 2015 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 ...more
Jennifer Juffer
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ive read these poems so many times, its hard to count. The layering of the soul with words, which Rilke does best, is why I continue to come back this particular book.
The depth and breadth of the selections encompassed in the The Book of Images highlights the journey of every persons experience with life and death.
Rilke is one my favorite poets because he does not journey far away from main points. His words and imagery hits the readers square on.
This translation is one of the best Ive seen.
Steven Godin
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, austria

Strange violin, do you follow me?
In how many distant cities before this
did your lonely night speak to mine?
Do hundreds play you? Does only one?

Are there in all the great cities
those who without you would have
long since lost themselves in the rivers?
And why does it always reach me?

Why am I always the neighbor of those
who force you from fear to sing
and to say out loud: life is heavier
than the weight of all things.
Mar 03, 2009 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 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?
Apr 23, 2007 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.
Jan 25, 2014 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.
Jun 05, 2011 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.
Bailey Robertson
Jan 26, 2011 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.
Jessica Lebaron
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Moves the spirt in a delight of mystery.
Aug 24, 2011 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 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful words. Another Simic - or maybe I have that backwards - Simic is another Rilke.
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Rilke Translation 1 14 Jan 02, 2010 06:56PM  

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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 most

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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...”
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