Published 2016 (Portuguese translation and afterword by José Miranda Justo).
“Dieses vor allem: fragen Sie sich in der stillsten Stunde ihrer Nacht: ‘muss ich schreiben?’ Graben Sie in sich nach einer tiefen Antwort. Und wenn diese zustimmed lauten sollte, wenn Sie mit einem starken und einfachen ‘Ich muss’ dieser ernsten Frage begegnen dürfen, dann bauen Sie Ihr Leben nach dieser Notwendingkeit.”
This book has been my favourite book for twenty years or more. When I was attending the Goethe Institute I had access to its library which is huge. I could request any book I wanted, and the services of the Goethe library would provide me with it. It was literally manna from heaven...Consequently, I never had a copy for myself. Until now. This gorgeous edition translated from German into Portuguese (bilingual edition), produced something worth having. It's a fine addition to my German library at home. On top of that the translation is far from serviceable. Apart from this translation, I only had come into contact with the translation done my Vasco Graça Moura which is a different beast altogether.
I think the first time I wrote about Rilke was in 2008. What more can I say that I haven’t said before? Apparently still lots remained to be said and written…
Rilke’s poems are considered quite difficult to translate from the German, and frankly, I even have trouble understanding them in English and Portuguese. His letters, on the other hand, are quite comprehensible and even inspirational. That's why, when given the chance, I always recommend this book to some of my literate friends. Some of them "get it", some don't. That's Rilke for you. But what shines out of everything he writes, be it in German, English or in Portuguese, rendered by anyone, is the astonishing purity and largeness of his poet’s heart, even when he's writing prose, as it's the case here. That's one of the reasons why I love bilingual editions of something that lives particularly close to my heart. I get to follow the text line by line as I think about the choices done by the translator. Besides enjoying the original, I'm able to think about the translation as well, namely about the solutions found by the translator.
What does Rilke have that other poets do not possess? Talent is not enough, and vocabulary is not enough. What about rhyming words and phrases…? What Rilke achieved and what he advises us to seek is a state of Nirvana where certain characteristics synchronize to produce a poem that is at once lyrical and philosophical, understated yet powerful, terse yet tactful, and most importantly, honest and heartfelt.
I've always read the letters as if they were already detached from the persons they were sent to, and now they can be also addressed to each one of us...
One of the most valuable lessons I took away from reading these letters more than 20 years ago, was trying to create a private space to be creative. It goes without saying that in this day and age (it was true 20 years, and it’s still true), I’ve had people trying to pry me out with “accusations” of being anti-social (“bicho do mato” as we say in Portuguese; I’m not sure about the translation, but it means something like “someone who has never seen daylight”). In creative growth I consistently run into the idea that you do that in your twenties and then you simply produce. Not so. I want to produce, and also be creative in other areas, be it in software developing, in poetry, or in prose. I still want to be creative in my old age, if I get to live that far, no matter the area I’m involved in…
And now, as Rilke said, “Und wo ein Großer und Einmaliger spricht, haben die Kleinen zu schweigen.” Therefore, I remain silent.
NB: Justo's afterword is also something worth reading. I've read a lot of Rilke, but I'd never thought about his work in those terms. Enlightening... 5 stars for the original, and 5 stars for the translation and afterword.