Rilke and Russia

A tri-national research and exhibition project Marbach – Bern, Zurich – Moscow 14th September – 10th December 2017. Inauguration September 13th 6 p.m. by Federal Councillor Alain Berset.

"That Russia is my homeland is one of the great and mysterious certainties of my life."

Rainer Maria Rilke visited Russia and present-day Ukraine with Lou Andreas-Salomé on two occasions: in 1899 and 1900. The trips were to be one of the most influential foreign experiences in the history of German-language literature. For Rilke himself they constituted a personal, artistic and spiritual awakening. Many traces of his intense engagement with "things Russian" can be found in his works. Few poets of the modern era enjoyed such a strong reception in pre-Revolutionary Russia. For the rest of his life, Rilke continued to view the country as both homeland and a place he longed to be.

Leonid Pasternak: Sketch for an oil painting of Rainer Maria Rilke (property of the Rilke-Beyer family)
Leonid Pasternak: Sketch for an oil painting of Rainer Maria Rilke (property of the Rilke-Beyer family)

This tri-national exhibition brings together for the first time materials that attest to this legendary fascination: diaries, documents and images from the German Literature Archive, the Swiss Literary Archives, the Rilke Archive in Gernsbach, the private Lou-Andreas-Salomé Archive in Göttingen and, in particular, letters from Russian archives and collections. In addition, three contemporary artists will be offering modern perspectives on Rilke's journeys through Russia: photographs by Mirko Krizanovic and Barbara Klemm as well as a film by Anastasia Alexandrova will be shown in conjunction with the historical materials. Renowned Russia expert Ilma Rakusa is writing a literary essay for the accompanying catalogue.
In Switzerland, the exhibition will be shown partly at the Strauhof in Zurich and partly at the National Library in Bern, where the Swiss Literary Archives will be staging two complementary presentations on the Russia of Swiss authors Blaise Cendrars and Carl Spitteler.
Artistic Director: Dr. Thomas Schmidt, German Literature Archive Marbach


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