"Rilke's Russia" explores the biographical and textual evidence of Russia's importance in shaping Rainer Maria Rilke's aesthetic perception. Rilke's two trips to Russia at the turn of the century, made in the company of Lou Andreas-Salome, led to connections with Nikolai Leskov, Leo Tolstoy, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Maxim Gorky. Tavis uses letters, poems, and fiction to trace Rilke's impressions, situating Rilke's writings within the context that informed their creation and meaning and established the requirements for authority and legitimacy in their interpretation. To examine "Rilke's Russia" is to recapture the past that he shared with his Russian contemporaries; Tavis traces Rilke's steps to reclaim his image of Russia as a valid cultural influence. Both Rilke scholars and general readers should find this book to be more than a simple biographical chronicle of Rilke's Russian connection. Tavis documents the creative isolation the young poet felt vis-a-vis his own German-speaking culture in Slavic Prague and reveals his extensive connections with Czech literature and culture. The bulk of the author's discussion, however, concentrates on Rilke's actual and symbolic intersections with Russian literary prose masters and poets between 1898 and 1926. These intersections are so valuable precisely because they are different from the Russian "novel of ideas" that had swept the continent by storm during these years, and by which Russia was so firmly identified in the European literary imagination; Tavis provides a fascinating corrective to this convention.
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