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The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge isn t a very novelistic novel, as it is told as a sort of diary in the first person and is semi autobiographical Brigge is a twenty eight year old Danish man, alone and adrift in Paris He wishes to transmute his fear of death into some profound literary work and fills his notebooks with memories, historical anecdote, and sketches of the Parisian streets I was very moved by Rilke s evocation of urban alienation, of listening to your neighbours through the walls of a cheap rented room because you have no one to talk to, and of death obsession I identified with Brigge s preoccupations, having on occasion been in just the same state of mind myself On the other hand, towards the end of the book Brigge writesof love than death, and this made him harder for me to relate to This probably doesn t reflect too well on me Brigge, a solitary and melancholic figure with no direction in life but periodically overwhelmed by fear of death, seems to be a shadow or echo of Rilke Perhaps he represents someone Rilke thought he could have been Brigge is unhappy and there is no indication that he will ever transcend his poverty and perpetual introspection I can very well understand being afraid of such a lonely trap of a life In fact, one might subtitle this book, The Dangers of Being an Unhappy Introvert in Paris During the first third or so I was rather reminded of Plath s The Bell Jar.Rilke s writing is absolutely beautiful, which isn t surprising as he was famous as a poet In fact, this was his only novel By way of example, I was struck by this bit about reading Somehow I had a premonition of what I so often felt at later times that you did not have the right to open a single book unless you engaged to read them all With every line you read, you were breaking off a portion of the world Before books, the world was intact, and afterwards it might be restored to wholeness once again I tend to find poetry intimidating and impossible to understand, but I ought to give Rilke s a chance The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge suggests I have an affinity with him No other writer I ve come across has articulated the fear of death as effectively. I don t imagine that I will always read I hope not, anyway For someone who is so scared of death it is rather perverse, or certainly absurd, that I spend so much of my time amongst the dead, instead of engaging with the world around me Indeed, that is why I started reading heavily, it was, I m sure, a way of turning away from a world that I so often felt, and still feel, at odds with, towards another that I could control and which did not challenge me With books, I can pick and choose a sensibility, an outlook, that chimes with my own and I can guarantee company and conversation that I don t find alienating or dispiriting To this end, I have read The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge three times As a novel it is something of a failure, but large parts of it resonate with me as much as, if notthan, any writing ever set down on paper My last hope was always the window I imagined that outside there, there still might be something that belonged to me, even now, even in this sudden poverty of dying But scarcely had I looked thither when I wished the window had been barricaded, blocked up, like the wall For now I knew that things were going on out there in the same indifferent way, that out there, too, there was nothing but my loneliness The Notebooks is essentially the thoughts, memories and impressions of Malte, a twenty eight year old Dane who has recently moved to Paris There are a number of well known but now dated novels that deal with the ex pat experience, such as Cortazar s Hopscotch and Miller s Tropic of Cancer, novels that are invariably marred by machismo and pretension The Notebooks, however, contains none of that Rilke s Paris isn t a playboy s playground, littered with booze and whores it is a great city, full of curious temptations, but there is nothing glamorous about it and no sense that Malte is living some kind of mock heroic existence Indeed, in the opening line of the novel he states that Paris is a place where, it strikes him, one does not go to live, but where one goes to die it is a place that smells of pommes frites and fear.That Malte is the last, or one of the last, in his family line is trebly significant, for he is preoccupied with death, with solitude, and with nostalgia One notices that, again in contrast with many other similar novels, there is not one living character with whom he regularly engages or communicates In Paris he is an observer, making notes about ordinary citizens, but never interacting with them For example, he sees a pregnant woman inching ponderously along by a high, sun warmed wall as though seeking assurance that it was still there, he watches a man collapse, and then another who has some kind of physical ailment that causes him to hop and jerk suddenly He appears to be drawn to the eccentric and lost, the suffering and down trodden, no doubt because he identifies with them, but he remains alone and isolated himself Towards the end of the novel he states that he once felt a loneliness of such enormity that his heart was not equal to it.However, when he is surrounded by people, such as when there is a carnival, he describes it as a vicious tide of humanity and notes how laughter oozes from their mouths like pus from a wound Malte is the kind of man who lives mostly in his head who, although he encourages his solitude, is scared of losing his connection with the world, of withdrawing and parting from it At one point he goes to the library, and praises it as a place where people are so engrossed in their reading that they barely acknowledge each other He spends his time strolling to little shops, book dealers and antique places, that, he says, no one ever visits Once , we see an interest in obscure things, in things that have been forgotten or neglected One of my favourite passages is when he comes upon a torn down building, and he states that it is the bit that is left that interests him, the last remaining wall with little bits of floor still visible It is the suggestion of something once whole, once fully functioning that grabs his attention Rainer Maria Rilke left and Auguste Rodin in Paris As noted, much of the book is concerned with Malte s memories regarding his family, specifically in relation to his childhood One understands how this his upbringing and family situation may have gone some way to making him the man he is He is taciturn, he says, and then notes how his father was too His father was not fond of physical affection either Later, in one of theautobiographical anecdotes, Malte talks about his mother s mourning for a dead child, a little girl, and how he would pretend to be Sophie the name of Rilke s own mother in an effort to please her It is therefore not a surprise that he is highly sensitive, inward looking and ill at ease with himself Indeed, there is much in The Notebooks about identity and individuality There are, Malte says, no plurals, there is no women, only singularities he baulks at the term family, saying that the four people under this umbrella did not belong together Further, at one stage he fools around, dressing up in different costumes, in which he feelshimself, not less but then he tries on a mask and has some kind of emotional breakdown.All of these things ruins, obscurity, deformity, ailments, nostalgia, the self, loneliness come together in what is the book s dominant theme, which is that of death Only Tolstoy s Ivan Ilych and Lampedusa s The Leopard contain as much heartrending insight into the subject There are numerous passages and quotes I could discuss or lift from the text, but, not wanting to ruin your own reading, I will focus on only one When writing about individuality, Malte bemoans the fact, as he sees it, that people do not die their own deaths any, they die the death of their illness, they become their illness and their passing, therefore, has nothing to do with them In sanatoriums, he continues, people die so readily and with much gratitude the upper classes die a genteel death at home, and the lower classes are simply happy to find a death thator less fits Who is there today who still cares about a well finished death No one Even the rich, who could after all afford this luxury, are beginning to grow lazy and indifferent the desire to have a death of one s own is becomingandrare In a short time it will be as rare as a life of one s own Malte contrasts these predictable, unheroic deaths with that of his uncle, Chamberlain Christoph Detlev Brigge The old Chamberlain died extravagantly his death was so huge that new wings of the house ought to have been built to accommodate it He shouted and made demands, demands to see people both living and dead and demands to die This voice plagued the locals, keeping them in a state of agitation it was a voice louder than the church bells it was the voice of death, not of Christoph, and it became the master, aterrible master than the Chamberlain had ever been himself The point that Malte is making seems to be that one should not go gentle into that good night, that one should not accept the death that most pleases others, that causes the least amount of fuss You will die, there is no escape, it is within you, your death, from the very first moment, you carry it with you at all times, but you do not have to go out with a whimper.I wrote at the beginning of this review that The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge is a failure as a novel and this probably warrants further explanation Rather like Pessoa s The Book of Disquiet, which it resembles in many ways actually, I imagine that some readers will find it difficult to read the book cover to cover There is absolutely no plot, and many of the entries do not follow on from the previous one Moreover, after a few pages about Paris, which I would guess serve to draw in a number of people, the focus abruptly shifts, and the book then becomes increasingly strange and elusive, with a relentless interiority None of this bothers me, however While I do hope to give up reading one day, I will, without question, carry this book around inside me for the rest of my life, rather like my death. @DOWNLOAD PDF ß Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge Ä The Notebooks Of Malte Laurids Brigge Is Rilke S Major Prose Work And Was One Of The Earliest Publications To Introduce Him To American Readers The Very Wide Audience Which Rilke S Work Commands Today Will Welcome The Reissue In Paperback Of This Extremely Perceptive Translation Of The Notebooks By M D Herter Norton A Masterly Translation Of One Of The First Great Modernist Novels By One Of The German Language S Greatest Poets, In Which A Young Man Named Malte Laurids Brigge Lives In A Cheap Room In Paris While His Belongings Rot In Storage Every Person He Sees Seems To Carry Their Death Within Them And With Little But A Library Card To Distinguish Him From The City S Untouchables, He Thinks Of The Deaths, And Ghosts, Of His Aristocratic Family, Of Which He Is The Sole Living Descendant Suffused With Passages Of Lyrical Brilliance, Rilke S Semi Autobiographical Novel Is A Moving And Powerful Coming Of Age Story Rilke s semiautobiographical surrogate Malte Laurids Brigge is a young Dane, a noble scion adrift in early twentieth century Paris, trying to become a poet He corresponds rather well to Anthony Burgess s description, in his charming study ReJoyce 1965 , of the type of student Stephen Daedelus represents, poor, treasuring old books with foxed leaves, independent, unwhining, deaf to political and social shibboleths, fanatically devoted to art and art only Malte and Stephen hang out at the Bibliotheque Nationale, worry about how incidents of shabbiness in their wardrobes may effect their dignity, and are nuts about Ibsen or was that just Joyce himself Did he lend that admiration of his to Stephen I m not near my bookshelves Malte doesn t have anything like Stephen s confidence in ultimate triumph like the Camus and Sartre heroes for whom he is said to have provided a model, Malte is pushed pretty hard up against the wall by metaphysical doubts and a general terror before existence But even so, they both have high caliber minds that relish the lyrical gnomic fragment and eschew exposition or transition in the very best badass tradition of high modernist narration in the telling of eerie tales from their unhappy childhoods Malte s mom is dead, too and in excursions through their daunting hoards of philosophical and historical arcana Stephen likes scholastic philosophy Malte has a thing for famous female anchorites and fanatical mystic nuns, plus, and this is a big one for him, the deathbed agonies of medieval French kings as encountered in Froissart s Chronicles and Rilke is like Joyce, and like Baudelaire their mutual master in this respect profoundly attentive to the crushing squalor and pathos to be glimpsed in the sinuous creases of old capital cities Or that time in Naples that young creature sat there opposite me in the street car and died At first it looked like a fainting spell we even drove on for a while But then there was no doubt that we had to stop And behind us vehicles halted and piled up, as though there would never be anymoving in that direction The pale, stout girl might have quietly died like that, leaning against the woman beside her But her mother would not allow this She contrived all possible difficulties for her She disordered her clothes and poured something into her mouth which could no longer retain anything She rubbed her forehead with a liquid someone had brought, and when the eyes, at that, rolled back a little, she began to shake her to make her gaze come forward again She shouted into those eyes that heard nothing, she pushed and pulled the whole thing to and fro like a doll, and finally she raised her arm and struck the puffy face with all her might, so that it should not die That time I was afraid.Rilke s tableaux parisiens are as uncanny and disturbing as Baudelaire s He s as fascinated by the old, the worn out, the thrown away, the girls, still unused in their innermost depths, who had never been loved as the poet of Les Sept Vieillards and Les Petites Vieilles On a blind newspaper peddler s Sunday cravat and new straw hat He himself got no pleasure from them, and who among all these people I looked about me could imagine that all this finery was for them The wannabe Bohemian girls from good families Malte encounters copying in museums wear dresses that, without servants to button then all the way up, appear half open in the back Beside him in one of the waiting rooms of the Hospice de la Salp tri re, a last refuge of prostitutes and beggars, aged women and the insane, Malte becomes conscious of a huge, immovable mass, having a face that I saw was empty, quite without features and without memories and it was gruesome that the clothes were like that of a corpse dressed for a coffin The narrow, black cravat had been buckled in the same loose, impersonal way around the collar, and the coat showed that it had been put on the will less body by other hands The hand had been placed on the trousers exactly where it lay, and even the hair looked as if it had been combed by those women who lay out the dead, and was stiffly arranged, like the hair of stuffed animals.The portions of Malte s family memories and introspection are no less absorbing Rilke s imagery is often so striking that even the deepest burrowing in Malte s malaise and artistic self doubt can rival the lurid street scenes I put my little strength together like money but inside you it preciptates, hardens, takes on pointed, geometrical forms between your organs it was a literal, unambiguous tale that destroyed the teeming maggots of my conjectures Certainly the weightiest book I ve read this year. Dense, peculiar, at times impenetrable, at times utterly bursting with stunning imagery, this is an immensely difficult book to pin down And it got under my skin Proust crashing headlong into Dostoyevsky This is what happens when a writer who is, at heart, a lyrical romantic faces the dawning industrial era with a combination of absolute trepidation and awe.And if you live alone, in a foreign city, sure of not very much, your mind periodically drawn back to a childhood in a frigid Northern clime, you ll be as devastated by it as I was, and you will climb up to the top of your building, look at the sun set in a language you barely speak, and you ll realize exactly where Rilke was coming from. A beautiful writing, a beginning that carried me, but then I had a littletrouble No real story, and as many of the topics discussed have spoken to me, so many others have left me quite cold relationships of historical characters I know this book is a classic, and the style fully justifies it But my weak attention span and the particular genre of the book actually neither novel nor story nor anything else allied against me when reading this book. ChronologyIntroductionNotes to the IntroductionFurther ReadingA Note on the Text The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge Notes Sometimes choosing a star rating can be difficult To avoid falling trap to such uncertainty, I try to stick as formally to the description as possible ie 1 didn t like, 2 it was ok, 3 liked it, etc What gets really hairy, though, is when I have to reconcile liked with appreciated, which can be at odds and which happens occasionally with literature This is made all the tougher when I already have it in my head that I should like, or at the very least appreciate, a book because people whose opinions I respect think highly of it That should really does get me and make me second guess my own opinion I feel like I don t know how much of it I understood, but it was as if I were being solemnly promised that at some time I would understand it all 150 Thank goodness goodreads allows so much space for someone to move beyond a simplistic star rating and to give lengthy descriptions of the different aspects of the books that reached him as well as provide rambling prefatory notes I didn t like reading this I never found myself anxiously awaiting the next time I could find time to pick it up and readabout Malte s childhood reminiscences I waded through his obscure historical asides, couldn t keep any of the names straight, and just didn t care I actually cringed at certain passages which I thought were striving so hard to achieve profundity and reached odd at best For example, when Malte hit upon the idea of offering the neighbor on the other side of the wall my will For one day I understood that his was at an end And after that, whenever I felt it coming on, I stood on my side of the wall and begged him to make use of it And as far as my expenditure of will was concerned, I began to feel it 132 To me this reeks of a would be poet attempting to emphasize how he feels thingsdeeply than the common man, when, in reality, he s nuts and it makes no sense Plus, that page is followed by a page of meditation on a box lid, a lid that could have no other longing than to find itself on its box the fulfillment of its desires 134 He even decides this box lid has it in for me Then there are his ruminations on love, death, and God All fodder for some very profound revelations However, again I just couldn t get into them it s the same problem I ve always had with the Transcendentalists, and some of this sounded pretty transcendentalist ish In the garden, there is one chief thing everything is everywhere, and one would have to be in everything in order not to miss anything 149 Malte is definitely trying to live deep and suck out the marrow of life, to separate himself from the mass of men who lead lives of quiet desperation HOWEVER, there were many passages that I did find profound, especially towards the beginning Maybe this just isn t the type of book one can read a few pages at a time in ten minute bursts In the beginning, I understand that Malte does represent the true Modern man he is learning to see 3 , discovering that the main thing was that one was alive 2 , wondering Is it possible that the whole history of the world has been misunderstood Is it possible that the past is false because one has always spoken of its masses 16 , understanding that something is going on in me as well, something that is beginning to distance and separate me from everything 37 Talk about embodying the disillusionment, isolation, and true severing of ties with the past of the modernist movement just read page 38 in its entirety and you ve got a summary of said movement There is sooo much talk about masks in the book, and I see that as a metaphor for Malte s goal He seeks to reveal the Truth to all of those around him, to rip away the false masks under which they live Unfortunately, he is too awkward especially around girls and self conscious and insecure There were countless time throughout the text that I wrote in the margins Prufrock In fact, as I read I had planned for this review to be a comparison between this book and the poem Now I realize that I would have had to copy nearly the entire poem because comparisons connections can be drawn to nearly every line of it Now one accidentally emerges among accidental things and almost takes fright at not being invited 97 I mean, come on Malte s overwhelming question is My God, if it were possible to impart something of it But would it exist then, would it exist 54 And will they, in any event see what I am saying here 111 A Favorite Quotation Flowers and fruits are ripe when they fall animals feel themselves and find one another and are satisfied But we, who have made God for ourselves, we can not find satisfaction 174 A Favorite Scene When his dog reproaches him for letting death in Touching 121.A Quotation That, Perhaps, Sums Up My Reading Experience Many things came into my hands that, so to speak, ought to have been read already, for other things it was much too soon nothing at that time was just right for the present But nevertheless I read 148. This novel is amazing.I am sitting here, reading the responses left by others, and what the hell Most of you are downgrading this book due to the lack of Rilke s message in this book For those of you who do not know Rilke, Rilke is considered one of the worlds greatest poets, as this was his first and only novel If you do not like, nor prefer poetry, this novel is not for you The book is a compilation of narrative, philosophical asides, sketches for future poems, and detailed descriptions of artwork It is clear that the writer is a poet, for much of the content does not make sense except in an irrational way As every selection in the book shows, he prefers to sit in the corner with his notebook making observations about those around him or delving into his reminiscences from home, never getting up and actually entering into the reality of life Those who need a clear plot and a reliable narrator beware This book is non linear and readslike poetry than a traditional novel Or even as a diary The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge is a challenging novel, as there is no storyline, nor plot structure Instead, this the notes in this novel deliver an cryptic poetic message I can see ones point when claiming they do not understand why there is German words in this novel, despite it being translated When reading, just like everyone else, I m garbling the pronunciation, but it doesn t matter I like the sounds And not only the sounds, I enjoy the anticipation, the holding my breath quality of knowing that the English words sit right there, across the gutter of the page The fact that the translator did not take all of Rilke s words and water them down, but instead leaves them there for the readers to witness Rilke s real words and beauty, makes the novel that much better I just started reading this novel, and I can say with merriment that I m extremely drawn in by the compelled beauty in which Rilke delivers This novel is truly amazing, as I see it as nothing less I hate seeing RM s work get bashed, all because some people can t endure beautiful literature This is a novel I shall posses for the rest of my life. I felt repeatedly while reading The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge that I might have had a strong positive response to it if I had have a fear of death or if I was well acquainted with the poetry of Rilke I also noticed while reading that I do not have a fear of death view spoiler or at least certainly not in a manner similar enough to the narrative voice hide spoiler