by Birgit Haustedt, trans. by Stephen Brown
Travel was a way of life for the Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, and it was integral to his work. Between 1897 and 1920 he visited Venice ten times. The city has inspired countless writers and artists, but Rilke was both enthralled and provoked by it, as eager to see and explore the city’s deserted shipyards and back alleys as the iconic sights of St Mark’s and the Doge’s Palace. Staying in simple guesthouses or the grand palaces of his patrons, Rilke would walk prodigiously. His contemporary Stefan Zweig commented that ‘knowing every last corner and depth of the city was his passion’ and Rilke himself said his walking allowed him to ‘grasp the whole breadth of the city’. In eleven walks Birgit Haustedt guides readers through Venice in the poet’s footsteps, showing us well-known sights though Rilke’s eyes so that we might see them anew.
Birgit Haustedt taught German Literature at the University of Salerno and works as a freelance writer in Hamburg. She is the author of several books on Italian and German cities.