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Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus

Narrated by: Stephen Mitchell
Length: 1 hr and 50 mins
Categories: Classics, Poetry
4 out of 5 stars (48 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke addresses the issues of God, death, and "destructive time." Rilke tries to transform these problems into an inner world, what he calls "a whole inner world as if an angel, comprehending all space, were blind and looking into himself." Eminent author and translator Stephen Mitchell brings these ideas vividly to life in this new translation of Rilke's most transcendent works.
Recording (P)1997 by Audio Literature; Copyright ©1995 by Stephen Mitchell

Critic Reviews

"Rilke has at last found, in Mitchell's version, the ideal English poetics and the perfect translator." (William Arrowsmith, co-author of The Craft and Context of Translation)

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • sleiii
  • New England, United States
  • 03-16-18

Numbing Reading of a Great Poet

Stephen Mitchell, wherever his translations of Rilke may rank (undetermined except from local publicity and reviews), displays no scintilla of talent in the oral rendering of either the Duino Elegies or the Sonnets to Orpheus. HIs nasal monotone fails to distinguish cadence and inflection or tone and timbre in nearly two hours of droning through the rich variation of expression in the poems, ranging from anguish to exuberance in modes that veer from the discursive and conversational to the lyrical and ecstatic. Mitchell flattens it all in a voice that, if you walk a bit away from the output, increasingly begins to resemble a table fan or mosquito in its unbroken whine.

While it is regrettable that so bland an effort has the corner on this one work, it is perhaps refreshing to be sent back to a silent reading of Rilke’s written text to discover the vivid dimensions that the poetry's inherent power invariably creates on its own.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • Washington, DC, USA
  • 05-27-05

warning: listen before buying

I wish I had! The narrator gives a simpering, anemic reading of one of the most vital, compelling works in all of literature, as if trying to be the very apotheosis of an effete sensitive Victorian poet. Maybe Rilke intended his work to be read in this way, but I doubt it. Its more like a parody, and an unlistenable one at that. What a waste!

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Atrocious reading of a good translation

Stephen Mitchell’s translation is wonderful; his reading is pathetic. I wish he had been willing to spend the money to have it read by someone like Jeremy Irons or Patrick Stewart. Instead, Mitchell sounds as if he’s reading a grocery list. I finally gave up, picked up my paper copy of his book and read it aloud to myself. While not a great performance, I’m sure it was a better performance than he gave it. (Almost anything would be.) So please listen to the sample before you buy.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Missing material

Mitchell's translations are haunting and evocative, and while the recording quality leaves something to be desired, the sound is not as poor here as it is on some other Mitchell recordings.

My main complaint is that this audiobook omits the author's Foreword (where much of Mitchell's contributions are) and one of the Sonnets to Orpheus (XVI of the First Part). While some readers might care to hear only the poems themselves without any of the biographical context or notes on translation method on the Foreword, it seems that anyone who ordered this book would want to hear all of the poems in their entirety. Here's hoping it is rerecorded and rereleased in greater fullness.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • DMC
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • 05-28-06

Remarkable poetry read by its best translator

This is a brilliant collection of poetry read by Stephen Mitchell, by far the preeminent translator of Rilke. It is a nice combination, with clear audio and a very credible reading.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful