Monday, September 24, 2007

Rilke's hermit

I'm working intensely at present on the filmscript project based upon The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke. The final years of Rilke's life were spent in hermitic conditions in a small manor-house in Switzerland. I was intrigued to rediscover a passage in the Notebooks [written when Rilke was not yet thirty] that prefigures this solitary existence at Muzot.

When we speak of hermits, we take too much for granted. We imagine that people know something about them. No, they do not. They have never seen a solitary; they have simply hated him without knowing him. They have been his neighbors who made use of him; they have been the voices in an adjoining room that tempted him. They have incited things against him, then they made a great noise and drowned his voice. Children have been in league against him because he was tender and a child, and as he grew, the stronger grew his opposition to grown people. They tracked him to his hiding place, like a hunted beast, and his long youth had no closed season. And when he did not sink exhausted, but escaped, they decried what had come forth from him, and called it ugly and cast suspicion upon it. And, when he paid no heed, they came out into the open and ate away his food, breathed his air and spat upon his poverty so that it became repugnant to him. They denounced him, as one stricken with contagious disease, and cast stones at him to make him depart more quickly. And they were right in their ancient instinct: for he was in truth their foe.

But, then, when he never raised his eyes, they began to reflect. They suspected that with all this they had simply done what he desired, that they had been fortifying him in his solutide and helping him to cut himself off from them for ever. And now they changed their tactics, and used against him the final weapon, the deadliest of all, the opposite mode of attack — fame. And at this noise he has almost every time looked up and been distraught.

— Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the excerpt. Never gave Rilke much shrifte, but I'll try to look him up.