Rainer Maria Rilke's The Book of Hours

Rainer Maria Rilke's The Book of Hours

A New Translation with Commentary

Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Susan Ranson

Edited by Ben Hutchinson


Camden House



A superb new (and complete) translation of Rilke's luminously lyrical early book of poems, with scholarly introduction and commentary.
Rainer Maria Rilke is arguably the most important modern German-language poet. His New Poems, Duino Elegies, and Sonnets to Orpheus are pillars of 20th-century poetry. Yet his earlier verse is less known. The Book of Hours, written in three bursts between 1899 and 1903, is Rilke's most formative work, covering a crucial period in his rapid ascent from fin-de-siècle epigone to distinctive modern voice. The poems document Rilke's tour of Russia with Lou Andreas-Salomé, his hasty marriage and fathering of a child in Worpswede, and his turn toward the urban modernity of Paris. He assumes the persona of an artist-monk undertaking the Romantics' journey into the self, speaking to God as part transcendent deity, part needy neighbor. The poems can be read simply for their luminous lyricism, captured in Susan Ranson's superb new translation, which reproduces the music of the original German with impressive fluidity. An in-depth introduction explains the context of the work and elucidates its major themes, while the poem-by-poem commentary is helpful to the student and the general reader. A translator's note treating the technical problems of rhythm, meter, and rhyme that the translator of Rilke faces completes the volume.

Susan Ranson is the co-translator, with Marielle Sutherland, of Rainer Maria Rilke, Selected Poems (Oxford World's Classics, 2011). Ben Hutchinson is Reader in Modern German at the University of Kent, UK.


284 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
Hardback, 9781571133809, April 2008
Paperback, 9781571135438, July 2012
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT014000
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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction by Ben Hutchinson
Translator's Note by Susan Ranson
Das Stunden-Buch / The Book of Hours
Erstes Buch: Das Buch vom mönchischen Leben
First Book: The Book of Monkish Life
Zweites Buch: Das Buch von der Pilgerschaft
Second Book: The Book of Pilgrimage
Drittes Buch: Das Buch von der Armut und vom Tode
Third Book: The Book of Poverty and Death
Commentary and Notes: First Book, Second Book, Third Book
Index of English First Lines
Index of German First Lines


Whether we see this collection of poems as an example of personal devotional musing or read it as the "seed of Rilke's subsequent development," it is well worth our attention. This is a lively and insightful work of criticism, scholarship, and creative translation. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

One of the pillars of 20th-century poetry, Rilke (1875-1926) was born in Prague, spent his life in Paris, Russia, and Germany, and died and was buried in Switzerland. He merits repeated studies, interpretations, and translations, and this one of his three-volume Stundenbuch (1899, 1901, 1903) is among the finest.... In his thorough introduction, Hutchinson ... casts these poems in a new light, adding depth to them as presented in previous editions. CHOICE

(The translator) anticipates the critical reader.and responds creatively to the huge challenge.There are fascinating reflections of the poet-translator on technical matters.as well as rhyme and rhythm.... Ben Hutchinson's introduction and detailed notes provide an academic insight and context. BROWN BOOK

The whole collection is newly translated here in fine, faithful versions by Susan Ranson, who captures the sonorities of the verse with apparent ease and handles the difficulties of Rilke's over-fondness for rhyme very judiciously. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

Ranson ... recognizes the ambiguity which pervades the original, and has tried to find a balance between faithfully reproducing ambituigies and "recognizing some duty of clarity to the reader." TRANSLATION AND LITERATURE

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