German Literature Archive Receives Estate of Austrian Poet Rainer Maria Rilke

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: December 1, 2022; 18:37 ♦ (Vindobona)

The transfer of writings and materials of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) to the German Literature Archive Marbach is the largest transfer to the Literature Archive in Baden-Württemberg with the estate, which had been in private hands for almost 100 years.

Rainer Maria Rilke worked at the beginning of the 20th century and left a large collection of high cultural importance for European literature. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons, Unknown author,,+Rainer+Maria, Public domain

For Claudia Roth, Germany's Minister of State for Culture, this is "perhaps the most important posthumous acquisition in postwar history. The estate contains more than 10,000 handwritten pages, about 8,800 letters, 470 books and journals, 131 previously unknown drawings by Rilke, and about 360 photographs from all phases of his life.

"Among the most important writers of the 20th century, there are very few who have left such deep and such lasting traces as Rainer Maria Rilke," said Green Party politician Roth. This unique and valuable treasure can now be lifted for the general public, she added.

The director of the literary archive, Sandra Richter, spoke of a "sensational stock" that was coming to Marbach after swift negotiations over the past twelve months. There were no details about the purchase price, which was financed by the federal and state governments of Baden-Württemberg as well as public and private foundations.

Rilke's legacy

Along with Franz Kafka, Rilke is one of the world's most important modern German-language authors. One of Rilke's best-known poems is "The Panther.

Rainer Maria Rilke was born on December 4, 1875, in Prague, Austria-Hungary, and died on December 29, 1926, in the Valmont Sanatorium near Montreux, Switzerland. Rilke was one of the most important Austrian lyric poets of his time, working in German and French.

In 1905 his Book of Hours, containing thoughtful, not infrequently religious poems, was published, as a result of which he soon achieved widespread popularity. The most catchy, sometimes ecstatic, sometimes melancholy verses left a lasting impression on the image of the prophetic poet Rilke. In his Book of Pictures, he continued his lyricism, which included reflections on transcendence and existence, and, especially in the farewell poems, completed the expression of impressionistic lyricism. With his dingyric poetry, which was completed in the New Poems and influenced by the visual arts, he is considered one of the most important poets of literary modernism. In his late work, he took the elegy genre to its final peak in German-language literature in his Duineser Elegien, following the Weimar Classicism and Friedrich Hölderlin.

As the narrator of his only novel, "Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge" (The Notes of Malte Laurids Brigge), Rilke developed, as in his ballads, the first beginnings of the modern narrative style or historical poetry after historicism, but remained entrenched in the depiction of pre-modernity. His story "Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke" achieved cult status and, along with his novel, is one of the poet's most important prose works. From his complete works, several essays on art and culture as well as numerous translations of literature and poetry are known. His Letters to a Young Poet is a unique educational as well as poetological instruction, while in Rodin he succeeded in tracing autopoiesis as a principle of becoming an artist.

His extensive correspondence, which has a special significance in his estate, was conducted with equally outstanding poets and thinkers of his time and is considered an important component of his literary work. As a translator of French poetry, among others by Paul Verlaine and Paul Valéry, he made an important contribution to the German-French cultural transfer.

Germany's Ministry of State for Culture