Rainer Maria Rilke was born into the German-speaking elite of Prague in 1875, and died in Switzerland in 1926. He was witness to the radical new art emerging in Paris before the First World War and was involved in reviewing exhibitions and writing articles about the new artists, as well as developing his own increasingly individual and virtuoso verse. He was secretary to the sculptor Rodin for two years, met Picasso and Tolstoy and many other giants of the artistic and intellectual community of the time.
He lived a semi-nomadic life, always putting his art before his personal relationships and always aware of his own calling as a poet. Today his reputation is as high as it was during his lifetime; his Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus and his two volumes of New Poems which sounded a new note in European poetry at the time remain landmark works. Together with his volumes of letters and his extraordinary impressionistic novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Rilke's poetry constitutes one of the great literary achievements of any century.