The first page of David Markson’s copy of A Ringing Glass: The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke by Donald Prater:
On which Markson wrote as an inscription:
NYC · 1992”
Rilke pops up in various places throughout Markson’s tetralogy…
Of Rilke’s youth, Markson mentions on pg. 8 of The Last Novel:
“Rilke was raised as a girl—in girl’s clothing—until he started school at the age of seven.”
He immediately follows this by writing:
“The Rilke who would later devotedly collect lace.
And maintain apartments habitually overflowing with roses.”
Was one of these apartments of his habitually overflowing with roses the one in the same building as Cocteau?
“For a time, Rilke and Cocteau had apartments in the same Paris building—evidently without ever becoming acquainted.”
Writes Markson on pg. 53 of The Last Novel.
The Rilke who also, when not staying in an apartment habitually overflowing with roses, or in an apartment in the same building as Cocteau, apparently was frequently a houseguest of others, according to Markson on pg. 56 of Reader’s Block:
“Rilke was eternally someone’s houseguest. Once he had fifty different addresses in four years.”
On pg. 20 of Reader’s Block there’s this tidbit about Pasternak’s love of Rilke:
“Boris Pasternak so admired Rilke that he carried two letters from him in his wallet for decades.”
But elsewhere we find criticism, as on pg. 159 of The Last Novel:
“Rilke’s over-sentimentalizing of the poor:
Did he ever once sit shivering in an attic? Kurt Tucholsky asked.”
On pg. 172 of The Last Novel:
“Gide-ists. Rilke-ists. Fraudulent existential witch doctors. Pallid worms in the cheese of capitalism. Intellectuals.
Being among Pablo Neruda’s more kindly appellations for authors not concerned with politics.”
“The greatest lesbian poet since Sappho, Auden called Rilke.”
Which Markson relays on pg. 34 of This Is Not A Novel.
Of things told to Rilke:
On pg. 183 of The Last Novel:
“One must go on working. And one must have patience.
Rodin told Rilke.”
“The kingdom of heaven, as described to Rilke by Marina Tsvetayeva after a lifetime of deprivation:
Never again to sweep floors.”
Markson writes on pg. 169 of This Is Not A Novel.
On pg. 89 of Reader’s Block Markson mentions Rilke’s wife by name:
Also, in Reader’s Block
, on pg. 153, a patroness of Rilke is mentioned by name:
“Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlohe.”
On pg. 162 of Reader’s Block:
“For whatever aesthete’s reasons, Rilke could not be troubled to attend his own daughter’s wedding.”
Which leaves us all probably thinking like Berryman did, as relayed by Markson on the following page (pg. 163 of Reader’s Block):
Rilke was a jerk.”
Interesting fact about the jerk:
According to pg. 117 of Reader’s Block:
“Rilke never read a daily newspaper.”
And on pg. 81 of This Is Not A Novel, Markson makes mention of the fact that:
“Rilke wrote standing up.”
“Rilke wrote most of the Duino Elegies, and the Sonnets to Orpheus, in less than one month.”
Markson lets us know on pg. 139 of Reader’s Block:
Markson mentions the Duino Elegies again on pgs. 47-48 of This Is Not A Novel:
”Les Saltimbanques, which inspired the fifth of the Duino Elegies:
Rilke in fact having been a guest in a home in Munich where the canvas hung above his desk for months.”
(The Rilke that was always the houseguest, as we already learned…)
Another poem by Rilke is mentioned pages later (on pg. 145 of Reader’s Block):
“Du musst dein Leben ändern.”
(Translated to “Archaic Torso of Apollo” in English.)
As the deaths of artists are everywhere in the tetralogy, Markson obviously makes mention of Rilke’s final moments (and does so many times).
The first being on pg. 31 of Reader’s Block:
“Rilke died of leukemia.”
And again his death pops up on pg. 86 of Reader’s Block:
“Joyce, Hesse, Mann, and Rilke all died in Switzerland.”
Markson again makes mention of those four (Joyce, Hesse, Mann, and Rilke) later on in Reader’s Block on pg. 125:
“Niels Lyhne. Which Joyce, Ibsen, Hesse, Mann, Strindberg, Rilke, Freud, were all profound admirers of. Rilke calling all of Jacobsen’s work as indispensable to him as the Bible.”
But he is not done with mentioning Rilke’s death, which pops up on pg. 183 of Vanishing Point:
“The legend that Rilke died after being pricked by the thorn of a rose.
Actually, from leukemia.”
Immediately followed by the specifics of Rilke’s death:
“Valmont, near Glion, Switzerland. 3:30 AM. December 29, 1926.”
David Markson’s copy of A Ringing Glass: The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke by Donald Prater is owned by John Harrison. The above scan is used with his permission. Copyright © John Harrison.