Started to celebrate getting thirty this year
[RMR to LAS in Göttingen]
Rome, Via del Campidoglio 5
[November 13, 1903]
It touches me wondrously that now a home surrounds you—a house filled with your being, a garden that has its life from you, a wide space that belongs to you; and yes, I understand that all of this has and had to come about slowly; for the world that has its life from you wants reality and has the strength to will it. That first, faraway Loufried: wasn’t it almost like a dream, fragile and full of anticipated things; yet it drew substance from you, and whenever you arrived, the house was big and the garden endless. I felt it back then, and now, so much later, I know: that the infinite reality surrounding you was the deepest event for me out of all that inexpressibly good, expansive, generous time; the life-changing force that would seize me in a hundred places at once—it came from you, you who were real beyond words. Never had I, in my groping timidity, felt existence, believed in presence, and recognized the imminent with such intensity; you were the opposite of all doubt and irrefutable proof for me of the existence of everything that you touched, reached, and perceived. The world lost its cloudiness for me, that fluidity of self-shaping and self-dissolving that was the pose and poverty of my first verses; things came to be, one could distinguish between animals, flowers existed; I learned simplicity, learned slowly and with difficulty how unassuming everything is, and became mature enough to put simplicity into words.
And this all happened becuase I was able to meet you, back then when for the first time I was in danger of surrendering myself to formlessness. And if this danger always finds a way to return and always returns larger and stronger, it is also true that the memory of you grows in me, the awareness of you, and it too keeps strengthening. In Paris, in those most difficult days when all things were withdrawing from me as from someone going blind, when I trembled with the fear of no longer being able to recognize the face of the person closest to me, I held on tightly to the assurance that I still recognized you inside me, that your image had not become alien to me, that it had not deserted me like everything else, but had alone remained with me in that foreign emptiness where I was forced to live.
And even here, when, feeling torn so many ways, I made yet a new start, you were the calm place on which I fixed my gaze.
How well I understand: that the things come to you as birds do to their nests—from far away, as evening darkens. Thousands of great and thousands of small laws fulfilled themselves as this house took shape around you. And I am so glad that its is standing now, and I feel as though its goodness extends from there even here to me.
My struggle, Lou, and my danger lie in the fact that I cannot become real, that there are always things that deny me, events that go straight through me, more real than I am and as if I didn’t exist. Earlier I believed this condition would improve once I had a house, a wife, and a child, had something real and undeniable; believed that this would make me more visible, more tangible, more factual. But lo, Westerwerde existed, it was real: for I built the house myself and made everything in it. And yet it was a reality outside me, I was not part of it and was not taken up with it. And now, when the little house and its quiet beautiful rooms exist no longer: that I know there is still a person who belongs to me and somewhere a little child in whose life nothing is so close as she and I—this gives me a certain security and the experience of many simple and deep things,—but it doesn’t help me achieve that feeling of reality, of being equal to it, for which I yearn so strongly:
To be a real person among real things.
Only in the (ever so rare) days of work do I become real, exist, take up space like a thing, have weight, lie in place, fall—and, when I do, a hand comes and lifts me up. Fitted into the edifice of a great reality, I experience myself then as a support on a deep foundation, touched right and left by other supports. But always, after such hours of existing as a close-fitting part of it, I am again the discarded stone which lies there so pointlessly that the grass of idleness has time to grow tall over it. And that these hours of being discarded don’t grow less frequent but now last almost forever—, should that not make me afraid? If I keep lying there like that and become overgrown, who will find me beneath everything that flourishes on top of me? And have I perhaps not been crumbled up already long ago, spread almost even with the land, almost mixed in with it, so that any one of the sad paths that go back and forth across it might lead over me?
And so this perpetually is the one task before me, which I forever fail to begin and which nevertheless must be begun: the task of finding the road, the possibility of daily reality …
I write this, dear Lou, as in a diary, all of this, because I am not able to write a letter now and yet wanted to talk to you. I have almost grown unused to writing and so forgive me if this letter is crude and chaotic. Perhaps one cannot even see that it is full of joy for your house and enters it bringing many wishes. Many. Each and all.
Please, extend my warmest greetings to your husband; may my good wishes include him also and his new more public life!
Enclosure: This is a picture from Westerwedian days—in it one can see a portion of the room I built for myself back then. All the pieces of furniture were old, being Rilkean family property. I am sending it to you because it was at least a portion of house, not more than the broken shell of a snail, but a shell nonetheless. And because I want so much to give you something, in spite of the fact that this letter brings nothing at all.
Melissa Catanese - Dive Dark Dream Slow (2012)
"Photographer and bookseller Melissa Catanese has been editing the vast photography collection of Peter J. Cohen, a celebrated trove of more than 20,000 vernacular and found anonymous photographs from the early to mid-twentieth century.
Gathered from flea markets, dealers and Ebay, these prints have been acquired, exhibited and included in a range of major museum publications. In organizing the archive into a series of thematic catalogues, she has pursued an alternate reading of the collection, drifting away from simple typology into something more personal, intuitive and openly poetic.
Dive Dark Dream Slow is rooted in the mystery and delight of the found image and the snapshot aesthetic, but pushes beyond the nostalgic surface of these pictures and reimagines them as luminous transmissions of anxious sensuality.
Like an album of pop songs about a girl (or a civilization) hovering on the verge of transformation, the book cycles through overlapping themes and counter-themes—moon and ocean; violence and tenderness; innocence and experience; masks and nakedness—that sparkle with deep psychic longing and apocalyptic comedy.”