From “the Sonnets to Orpheus”- A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke 

Context: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. He wrote both poetry and lyrical prose. Rilke was born into the Austria-Hungarian Empire and lived his earliest years in Prague. His childhood is described as an unhappy one with estranged relations to both parents. Their marriage was not happy and the father had a failed military career while his mother never recovered from the loss of an infant child. His parents pressured the poetically and artistically talented youth into entering a military academy, which he attended from 1886 until 1891, when he left because of an illness.

From 1892 to 1895 he was tutored for the university entrance exam, which he passed in 1895. Until 1896 he studied literature, art history, and philosophy in Prague and München. In 1897 in Munich, Rainer Maria Rilke met and fell in love with the widely travelled, intellectual woman of letters Lou Andreas-Salomé who once had a “romance” with the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Rilke changed his first name from “René” to “Rainer” at Lou’s urging because she thought that name to be more masculine, forceful, and Germanic. His relationship with this married woman, with whom he undertook two extensive trips to Russia, lasted until 1900. But even after their separation, Lou continued to be Rilke’s most important confidante until the end of his life. Having trained from 1912 to 1913 as a psychoanalyst with Sigmund Freud, she shared her knowledge of psychoanalysis with Rilke.

Rilke died in the arms of his doctor on December 29, 1926 in Schweiz. The leukemia which killed him had been almost reluctantly diagnosed.

Themes: With news of the death of his daughter’s friend, Wera Knoop (1900–1919), Rilke was inspired to create and set to work on Sonnets to Orpheus. In this section of the sonnets (XVI) which I’ve translated myself from German 🙂 ; we encounter friendship and death as major themes.

XVI.

You, my friend, me alone, because…

We make through words and finger signs

an attempt to claim the world,

maybe its weakest and most horrible parts.

Who will point with the fingers to a smell? –

But from the Powers, which threaten us,

you can feel many…You know the Dead Ones,

and you are afraid of magic spells.

Look, now we must endure it together

Bits and pieces as it was a whole.

You, it will be difficult to help. For all: plant

me not in your heart.

I will grow too fast.

Though, my Lord’s hand will I take and say:

Here. That is Esau in his fur.

Sources

wikipedia.org

Rilke in Switzerland two years before his death in 1926.

Visiting Sigmund Freud’s home in Vienna

In this post I continue to reflect upon my trip to Austria in 2009. I went to Berggasse 19 in Vienna, the former home of dr. Sigmund Freud. He lived there with his family for many years and his practise was also located in the apartment. When the political situation changed in the 1930s due to the raise of National Socialism in Germany and because of the Anschluss in which Nazi Germany forced Austria to join in the Reich; Sigmund Freud had to flee. Nazis once entered his apartment but were too afraid to do anything because Freud’s old testament persona scared them off. He knew they would come back. He understood he must flee Austria. His escape took place in 1938 with the help of a very rich former patient he could resettle in London were he died a year later. Freud was a heavy smoker and in the 1920’s he developed a leukoplakia in the mouth and was told to stop smoking. He later developed cancer in the mouth.


 

Today Freud’s apartment is converted into a Museum dedicated to his life and work. The very famous coach isn’t located here but in London. There were little furniture around but the walls are scattered with information about Freud’s life and the psychoanalysis he helped intervent. However, there were several small statues or figuerines on display which Freud once had collected. If you wish to visit this excellent site be sure you got some time. The place also holds a small shop selling Freud’s books.

Freud was born 1856 to Jewish parents in the Moravian town of Freiberg now called Prbor, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Czech Republic). He qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1881 at the University of Vienna. Five years later he started his own clinic and received patients in his apartment. He was a neurologist and the father of Psychoanalysis; a form of therapy. In 1902 he became a University professor. In creating psychoanalysis, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association and discovered transference, establishing its central role in the analytic process. 


Freud’s therapy focus a lot on sexuality and the interpretation of dreams. He developed several theories about man’s sexuality including the famous Oedipus Complex. These assets helped him form a clinical analysis which could explain repression in some cases and help patients with abnormal or complex mental conditions. He also created a theory about the unconscious and its mechanisms in relation to man’s ego.

 

Freud’s theories were not well-recieved in his own time and today we still cannot verify them which has led to the conclusion psychoanalysis as a theraphy is heavily critized. But one of his biggest contributions to the medical field was his focus on the patients previous experiences and the need to search for explanations to a patient’s mental condition. This sound like a basic thing to do today, but one must remember that in Freud’s own time focus was only on treatment and not searching for the cause of the condition. Freud also practised Self-Analysis and his most famous work The Interpretation of Dreams first published 1899 had its origins in his own personal crisis dealing with the death of his father.

Despite the criticism Freud’s ideas continue to live on and he has not only made his mark on Psychology; but also on numerous Academic fields such as anthropology and Semiotics. I liked visting the Museum and see the place where he and his family lived for so many years.

All photos in this post were taken by me on the visit. Make sure you got plenty of time while visiting Freud’s Museum since there was plenty to read when I was there in 2009.

Sources

wikipedia.org