The only novel by one of the German language’s greatest poets. The bits set in Paris are engrossing. The bits set in the narrator’s Danish aristocratic childhood are less so. But all in all a thoughtful and delicately intelligent novel, even if it doesn’t quite work as a novel.
As per The Telegraph:
“The central question of the book is self-identity. It ends with a retelling of the Prodigal Son, who runs away from home precisely to escape being loved on his family’s uncongenial terms. In his return, he wonders whether he is ready for the love of God – about which, in his reading of St Teresa of Avila, he has already meditated.
He wonders, moreover, whether God is ready to love him. If I had to teach creative writing, I think I would use this book as a text.
So many bad books – either novels or autobiographies – charge artlessly into their theme, assuming that the author’s soul is (a) interesting and (b) self-evidently existent.
Rilke’s prose masterpiece reminds us of the questionability of either statement.”
I’m not sure that the word “masterpiece” should be so glibly bandied about.