The page of Rilke, Rainer Maria, English biography
BiographyRainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) is generally considered the German language's greatest 20th century poet. Though he never found a consistent verse form, his haunting images tend to focus on the problems of Christianity in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety. He is generally placed in the school of modernist poets, though his religious dilemmas may set him apart from some of his peers.
He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two most famous verse pieces are the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose pieces are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. He also wrote more than 400 poems in French, dedicated to his homeland of choice, the canton de Valais in Switzerland.
His parents pressured the poetically and artistically gifted youth into entering a military academy, which he attended from 1886 until 1891, when he left due to illness. From 1892 to 1895 he was tutored to prepare him for the university entrance exam, which he passed in 1895. In 1895 and 1896, he studied literature, art history, and philosophy in Prague and Munich. Once he had left Prague, Rilke changed his first name from "René" to Rainer at the urging of his life-long girlfriend, Lou Andreas-Salomé.