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You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin
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You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  547 ratings  ·  102 reviews
In 1902, Rainer Maria Rilke—then a struggling poet in Germany—went to Paris to research and write a short book about the sculptor Auguste Rodin. The two were almost polar opposites: Rilke in his twenties, delicate and unknown; Rodin in his sixties, carnal and revered. Yet they fell into an instantaneous friendship. Transporting readers to early twentieth-century Paris, Rac ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 10th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2016)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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Start your review of You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin
Knowing Rilke first through his poetry is odd, in that it is his most intensely intimate side. He almost does not seem human, but like one of his angels, outside of time and the physical realm. This book shed light on that physical realm: his actual likeness, his long coming of age, as well as on Rodin, his mentor. And for him, how Rodin was this almost godlike figure, representing Art.

Though the two men worked in different mediums and had entirely different tendencies, one earthy and visceral,
This book was mildly interesting, in a gossipy sort of way. But Corbett's 'honeyed prose' (from a dustjacket blurb) aroused a persistent feeling that I was taken for a ride by an author who wanted to spin a good yarn at all costs. This feeling of suspicion was reinforced by the fact that the story hardly seemed to resonate with Wolfgang Leppmann's classic but more soberly narrated Rilke biography which I read only a year ago. In addition in 'You Must Change Your Life' there are inaccuracies and ...more
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to receive an ARC of You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin by Rachel Corbett in the mail. I was clamouring to read it, entering give-a-ways and requesting it on Edelweiss, then it arrived unanounced in the mail. Thank you, W. W. Norton!

I was in my twenties and living in Philadelphia when browsing in a Center City bookstore I happened upon Letters to a Young Poet. Later I bought the Duino Elegies-which I read on vacation camping at Acadia Natio
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: germany, usa, france
Rachel Corbett is a good writer and this work offers plenty of insides in the relationship between Rilke and Rodin. Her writing is fluid and entertaining without bordering the superficial. There are some factual flaws. They all seam rooted in the fact that she is not all too familiar with European history as such and most likely a language barrier separated her from the non-English literature on the subject. This, however can be forgive for a first work by a young writer. All in all she especial ...more
Layla (Between the Lines)
For fans of Rilke, for lovers of poetry, for artists and spectators of art, for those who constantly question the meaning of life, this book is for you.
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was totally all-consuming. The storytelling and writing are exceptional. Corbett manages to write prose that supports, illuminates, and complements Rilke while also maintaining her own voice and controlling the narrative. Wonderful, perfect, A+. This is not just up my alley, this is literally everything my alley is made of.

It's also sent me headfirst into a dormant obsession with Rilke, and now I find myself thinking of him and reading his poetry nearly constantly. Sometimes I even have tr
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a pleasure to read. This was really beautifully done. I felt enriched and was so sad to have it end. I was going to give 4 stars and then realized my vague sense of disappointment was only because it was over.
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

Heartfelt. The description of their lives touches you. In this book there is nowhere you don't see yourself. You must change your life, indeed.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-art-history
It’s been a big year for the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in museums. Sadly, I missed "Séraphin Soudbinine: From Rodin's Assistant to Ceramic Artist" and "Klimt & Rodin: An Artistic Encounter," both of which were at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. "Kiefer – Rodin" closes at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia in a few weeks.

When I noticed "You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin" (W. W. Norton & Company, 2016) by Rachel Corbett, which won the M
Four and five stars mean I want to keep a book. I don't want to keep this book.
I got this in great anticipation because I had loved Rilke in college and still enjoy his poetry from time to time. We had to translate his stuff from the German in German class. I loved it on so many levels! So when I saw a book about two artists I recognized, had enjoyed the art off, and was curious about, I eagerly waited until I could get the book for myself. I expected passionate artists imbibing on the joy of cr
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who would have ever known that one of the world's greatest sculptor's would mentor and guide one of its greatest poets. Reading this story - their fruitful yet volatile relationship - inspired me to write the following - I hope it serves as both a review and a reminder of how I might live.

"Gone are the days of reflection and silence. So interrupted by the multitude of life’s distractions that one cannot experience the world. To look into its vast beauty and proclaim and celebrate life. Rilke and
J Earl
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, won
You Must Change Your Life is a fascinating biography of a friendship beautifully written by Rachel Corbett. While we learn about the lives of Rilke and Rodin it is in the telling of the friendship where this book truly shines.

Corbett gives both biographies of the two men as well as an elaborate portrayal of the friendship and mentorship they established. These difficult men are presented in all of their grandeur as well as all of their pettiness, which serves to make them ever more human and rea
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, ssbk-club
Very absorbing, well written and packed full. Corbett vividly describes each artist's evolution prior to their intersection in Paris in 1902 when Rodin is a mature recognized sculptor in his 60s and and Rilke is an aspiring, if somewhat fragile, young poet in his 20s. From then on it's a psychological journey of two brilliant men and the fascinating environments in which they lived, and how they responded and made sense of some pretty crazy tumultuous times. For me it was a connecting of many do ...more
Mark Valentine
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It becomes clear in the early pages that Rodin intends to teach the younger artist and poet, Rilke, the difference between observation and seeing, the difference between presenting perfection in art and presenting the truth in art. Empathy from the seer levels the playing field on which to face art. Fronting art, our response, in all genuineness, must exist in a sense of humility that whatever gets seen, it will mandate changing my life. Simple but not easy.

Corbett writes more than two biographi
Audrey Babkirk Wellons
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I have a weakness for stories about relationships between famous artists and/or writers; this one definitely delivered. I think Rachel Corbett did an excellent job of creating a narrative out of two lives (and many relationships) that hardly follow a straight line. And, like any good book in this genre, the author gave us enough information about the times they lived in without getting sidetracked in extraneous details or making it feel like a scholarly history.

When I was 50 or so pages into it
This is all I ever wanted in a non-fiction and more!

The writing style is absolutely incredible and stunning, not only the words of these two artist are inspiring, but also Rachel Corbett's own words gave me chills more than ones and was so engaging and accessible!

I absolutely adored how she managed to not only write an absolutely incredibly detailed and informative portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin, but also ovf their time and the people around them, how they influenced and were i
Geri Degruy
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am such a fan of Rilke and this book filled in many details about his life that I didn't know, especially that he had this complicated relationship with Rodin. The author expertly told the tale of these 2 artists, their lives, families, environs, and of course their relationship with one another. There is also an ongoing narrative about the challenges of being an artist, seen through the eyes of these masters. Good read. ...more
Pam Mooney
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is fascinating! The essence of the friendships and politics of the time really came to life for me. I was completely enthralled by the telling but so much more impressed by the underlying knowledge of art and literature of the author. It is truly a comprehensive primer that covers Art history, romance, politics of the era, and so much more. A good read.
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Letters to a Young Poet is a longtime favorite book and of course I was introduced to Rodin in my art history classes in college, but learned so much more about each of these masters and their friendship in the dual biography "You Must Change Your Life" - fascinating, well written and eye opening for the historical content of its time I thoroughly enjoyed it! ...more
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was such a beautiful book - one of my favorites of 2016. It is a book about many things - a book about relationship, origins of empathy and the history of psychology, a story about workaholics, and a story about the oppression of women in Western history. Beautifully written and extensively researched, it reads like a hard-to-put-down novel.
Mark Wheaton
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A real must-read. Brilliantly written and a fascinating way into the creative lives of Rodin and Rilke but also those around them, including several amazing women whose portraits are as fascinatingly sketched if not more so.
Janel Jung
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book makes you feel like you're right there in place and time along with so many other artists. Beautifully written! ...more
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very engaging and informative and her style of writing is simply beautiful.
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really 3.5 stars. While learning a fair amount I had not known about the lives of both Rilke and Rodin, I never found this book to be totally engaging and writing often somewhat clunky.
Temple Cone
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In August 1902, the Czech-born, German-language poet Rainer Maria Rilke arrived in Paris for the first time. Lately come from the tranquil Worpswede artist colony in northern Germany, the hypersensitive Rilke was nearly overwhelmed by the deluge of urban life—”The crowds of people reminded him of beetles, crawling through garbage, scurrying to survive beneath the giant footsteps of life.” But nothing would deter him from meeting the world-renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin, an artist whose devotion ...more
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Pleasure and ambitions, that's what is all about. ...more
Stephen Kiernan
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted so much to love this book, about the artistic relationship between my favorite sculptor (Auguste Rodin) and a poet whose writing about art is excellent (Ranier Maria Rilke). But I didn't.
The dual biography is well researched and vividly written, with insight and respect for the subjects (and no concealment of their flaws). But it is a book all out of proportion.
It takes nearly a third of the text, for example, before Rodin and Rilke even meet. Their interactions are like an author chew
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I am not a biography fan. Wouldn't pick one up in a pink fit. But.

I am a Rilke tragic.

I couldn't put this book down.

It is written to be a page turner, but then, of course, the lives of Rilke, Rodin. Paula Becker, George Bernard Shaw, Lou Andreas-Salome, Nijinsky, Matisse, Cezanne, Oscar Wilde, will do that for you.

Spectacular book, loved every minute of it. The flawed humanity married to genius is always the paradox of enjoying great art. Can't look at a Picasso, knowing he was a rabid misogyni
Bob Walenski
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This wonderful book is like TWO biographies in one. It covers the entire life of Rainer Maria Rilke, the sensitive Romantic poet.... as well as much of the life of Auguste Rodin, possibly the world's most famous sculptor. Their lives overlapped during the most creative stages of their careers in the first 2 decades of the 20th Century. Rodin was a father figure to Rilke, 30 yrs older and at the pinnacle of his artistic fame and success. Rilke was searching for direction and steerage and trying d ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this book engrossing and I managed to finish it in just a few quick days. Partly that’s due to the straight-forward, readable text laid out by Rachel Corbett. More importantly, I found this book hit on all the things I hope for in a biographical sketch: it’s as much a history of the European zeitgeist in which Rodin and Rilke find themselves, as it is a document of their comings and goings, the reasons behind each peripatetic move, and the personal, artistic and “spiritual” motivations t ...more
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Rachel Corbett is the author of You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin, which won the 2016 Marfield Prize, the National Award for Art Writing. Her writing has also appeared in the The New Yorker, the New York Times, The Art Newspaper, New York magazine, and others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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