My latest book review is up at PopMatters. The Dark Interval is a collection of 23 letters written by Rilke to friends and acquaintances who were suffering from the losses of loved ones. There’s no pithy condolence or mystical ideology here. These letters are filled with beautiful language and intense insights about how grief, death, and loss can actually make us whole and even transform us. If you’ve read his Letters to a Young Poet, you will be moved by this collection too. The excellent translation is by Ulrich Baer, a Rilke scholar at NYU. There’s a bit more about the translation at the end of the review.
Spanning a period from 1908 to 1925, there are 23 letters here, mainly written to women (including former mistresses.) No matter whom he is writing to, however, his letters have little of the typical niceties other than where he is writing from or his ongoing poetry projects. Often, he gets straight to the reason for his writing, going deep into musings on death, life, grief, loss, and love. And one of his favorite recurring themes, which the title here calls out specifically, is transformation.
Also, you can read excerpts from this book at The Paris Review.