Rainer Maria Rilke was born on December 4, 1875 in Prague. His parents were unhappily married and their disdain for life and each other unfortunately flowed directly into their only child. He was sent to military school, hoping Rainer would ascend the armed forces ladder to become an officer. Yet Rilke had no such desire. After a desultory period at the military academy, his uncle, who recognized Rilke was a highly gifted student, essentially rescued him and sent him to a German preparatory school. Upon his enrollment in Prague’s Charles University in 1895, Rilke already knew he would pursue a career in literature. In fact, at the age of only twenty, he had already published his first collection of poetry, Leben and Lieder. His second collection followed one year later, Larenopfer, translated as “Sacrifice to the Lares.” Again, one year later in 1896, his third collection was released, Traumgekrönt, translated as “Dream-Crowned.” Soon after, Rilke decided to leave the university for Munich, Germany.
In what would prove to be milestone event of his literary career, Rilke traveled to Russia in 1897. During much of his travels, Rilke accompanied Russian intellectual Lou Andreas-Salome and her husband. Although significantly older than Rilke, it is believed the two had a short love affair. Regardless, Andreas-Salome had a dramatic influence over Rilke and his development, including introducing him to Leo Tolstoy. Deeply moved...
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