This is the first newsletter of Book Lovers sent on August 9, 2015, highlighting two Rilke's images that I really like: unicorns & dragons. Don't miss the next pieces, get the newsletter!
I see your reproving look against me. You want a breeze of fresh air in this tech world that runs too fast and which sometimes just seems very busy doing (almost) nothing. So you subscribe to a newsletter that should make you discover new (printed) horizons.
And here I am quoting Steve Jobs for the first edition of this newsletter. Shame! Shame? Let me explain why I chose that quote.
It’s not that I think a lot about Steve Jobs, or any other tech gurus (okay, maybe a bit too much about Tim Ferriss). That's just a way to thank you a lot for your subscription, I know that your time is precious, and I promise to do my best to make it worth it.
I really want for this newsletter to become more and more collaborative, so it doesn't only showcase my discoveries but also your discoveries. So don't hesitate to share with my quote that impacted your life, and to explain me why. I'll put them more and more in the coming newsletters.
Now, please give a very warm welcome to..
Having said that, let’s get to the point. For this first newsletter, I’ve decided to focus on one writer, that I really like: the great Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
He will share with us his sonnet called “Unicorn“, published in Sonnets to Orpheus. *round of applause*
For those who doesn’t know Rilke that well, you should know before all that he wasn’t lucky with his name.
His full name is: René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke.
More importantly, and despite that lack of fortune, he is very renowned for his contribution to german literature, especially for his poems (over 400 of which has been written in french).
On the tabloid side, let’s just mention 3 crazy facts:
- he was close to Paul Cézanne and Auguste Rodin (he wrote a long essay about Rodin and his work).
- he was the lover of Lou Andreas-Salomé, whom made him change his name from "René" to "Rainer" because she believed that name to be more masculine, forceful, and Germanic. Even if they eventually split up, she remained her confidante until the end of his life (having been trained as a psychoanalyst with Freud, she must have been good at it). For those interested in psychoanalysis and Nietzsche’s thinking (and in Lou Salomé), I cannot but recommend the incredible book When Nietzsche Wept from Irvin Yalom (an elegant essay in the form of a fictional conversation between Nietzsche and Freud’s mentor, doctor Josef Breuer).
- he met the novelist Leo Tolstoy in Moscow, who, according to letters he sent to Lou at this period of time, made him become vegetarian (Tolstoy has written several essays about vegetarianism).
Let’s get back to the Unicorn Sonnet.
Why did I chose it?
Firstly, the most obvious reason, as a nod to my new job of “unicorn hunter” (I’ve recently become a VC).
Secondly, and this is something that matters a lot to me, the central theme of this poem is the fact that beliefs create reality. Especially beliefs in action -what we like to call, depending on our level of seriousness: rites or… habits. This Sonnet said something that psychologists only discovered in the second part of the XXth century: our world and our being is to a great extent (if not only) what we (chose to?) believe.
Pretty one, isn’t it?
And to give it more context, this sonnet was written in 1922 among fifty-four other ones in The Sonnets to Orpheus. They were dedicated to Wera Ouckama Knoop, a young girl, who tragically died of leukaemia and whom he had seen dance in Munich in 1914. These sonnets are a mix of the Orpheus myth, references to Vera’s dancing and his own memories.
Discover the 55 poems of The Sonnets to Orpheus.
What about my book recommendation of the week?
It is my favorite piece of Rainer Maria Rilke, a series of 10 letters incredibly profound. An ode to life. The book is named Letters to a Young Poet (french version: Lettres à un jeune poète). You can order this masterpiece in total confidence. (4€, 180 pages).
For the indecisive among us, one short extract from the letter of August 12, 1904:
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
If you enjoyed this week's newsletter, please forward it to someone you like.
Looking forward to having your feedbacks and your impressions after the readings.
An article I loved. It gives you desire to read more: The Warren Buffett formula: How you can get smarter