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You Must Change Your Life

The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin

Rachel Corbett (Author)

Overview | Formats
 

The extraordinary story of one of the most fruitful friendships in modern arts and letters.

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet is one of the most beloved books of the twentieth century. It has sold millions of copies and inspired generations with its galvanizing wisdom on how to lead an artistic life. In You Must Change Your Life, debut author Rachel Corbett tells the remarkable, long-buried story of where Rilke’s ideas originated.

In 1902, Rilke, broke and suffering from writer’s block, accepted a commission to go to Paris to research and write a short book about the sculptor Auguste Rodin. The two were almost polar opposites: Rodin in his sixties, notoriously carnal, revered; Rilke in his twenties, delicate, unknown. Nonetheless, they fell into an instantaneous friendship and would work closely together as master and disciple for the next few years, as Rodin showed Rilke how to become the writer he wished to be.

With verve and great insight, Corbett transports readers to turn-of-the-twentieth-century Paris to explore this surprising friendship and the development of their influential ideas about art and creativity. She captures the dawn of modernism with appearances by such charismatic figures as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Isadora Duncan, George Bernard Shaw, and Jean Cocteau, as well as the rise of the concept of “empathy” amid the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Georg Simmel. Corbett also introduces the women in these men’s lives, many of them esteemed writers and artists in their own right: Rodin’s muse Camille Claudel, Rilke’s wife and fellow artist Clara Westhoff, and the remarkable Lou Andreas-Salome, who was Nietzsche’s lover and Rilke’s lifelong friend.

You Must Change Your Life is a vibrant portrait of Rilke and Rodin’s singular friendship, heartbreaking rift, and moving reconciliation, and it is a testament to the ways their work continues to reverberate to this day.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • September 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-24505-9
  • 6.6 × 9.6 in / 320 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverYou Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin

    Paperback

Endorsements & Reviews

“This empathetic and imaginative biography, deeply researched, is anchored by the friendship between [Rilke and Rodin].” — The New Yorker

“Rachel Corbett, as any fine artist, has produced a work of great effect, and leaves a lasting and indelible mark on the reader.” — NPR

“In honeyed, knowing prose, Rachel Corbett twines two great serpents of art: the suppleness of Rodin’s malleable flesh and eroticism and Rilke’s endless lyrical rivers. New portals of aesthetic intonations open; invisible elements come into sight.” — Jerry Saltz, senoir art critic, New York Magazine

“Spectacular. . . . A layered and lyrical inquiry into the personal, interpersonal, and cultural forces behind and around Rainer Maria Rilke’s iconic Letters to a Young Poet.” — Maria Popova, brainpickings

“Takes readers deep into the literary and art worlds of the beginning of the 20th century. . . . A must-read.” — Alanna Martinez, Observer

“Much more than the story of Rilke as a young man serving as the personal secretary and confidante to Rodin. Laced with first-and second-hand accounts of the artists and their milieu, You Must Change Your Life is an examination of the gritty how and why of artistic creation, as well as an acknowledgement of the costs of such a life.” — Sarah Roffino, Brooklyn Rail

“A riveting narrative. . . . Corbett writes sharp prose that gets to the point.” — Daniel Larkin, Hyperallergic

“Charming and funny, Rachel Corbett renders turn-of-the-twentieth-century Paris in all its gritty glory, illustrating how the same place that saw ‘Baudelaire charge through the streets waving a gun and Balzac nearly starve to death’ could foster a magical artistic relationship like this one.” — Ada Calhoun. author of St. Marks Is Dead

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