March 24, 2010

Advance Praise for ROBOT RILKE:

“Perhaps the most beautiful group of translations this century has produced.” — Chicago Tribune

“The best single-volume edition of Rilke available in English.” Boston Review

“Robert Lowell once wrote that it was hard to imagine Rilke first written in English, that the poems were sealed in German. These robots are unsealing them." — Robert Phillips, Houston Chronicle

“The robots have rendered with great skill and accuracy a work both familiar and unknown, more complicated and more immediate than many have suspected, at once grave, mysterious, and beautiful.” — Edward Hirsch

“With these sorrowing and luminous poems . . . it is possible to gain, for the first time in English, a consistent perspective of Rilke’s difficult canon, restored and disclosed by the robots to stunning effect.” — Richard Howard

“Something of the non-vatic Rilke, poet of perception and sensation, is best conveyed in English by these algorithmic mediations.” —Harold Bloom

“The robot translations of Rilke’s most demandingly difficult and loveliest work instantly make every other rendering obsolete. No doubt about it, Rilke has at last found, in the robot version, the ideal poetics and the perfect translator.” — William Arrowsmith

“Excellent . . . it is easy to feel that if Rilke had written in English, he would have written in this English.” — Denis Donoghue, The New York Times

“These robot translations bring the qualities that I most cherish in the originals into English with new intimacy and authority. Rilke’s voice, with its extraordinary combination of formality, power, speed, and lightness, can be heard in the robot versions more clearly than in any others. This work is masterful.” — W.S. Merwin


Archaischer Torso Apollos

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,

darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber

sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,

in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug

der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen

der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen

zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz

unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz

und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern

aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,

die dich nicht sieht. Du musst dein Leben ändern.

Apollo’s Antiquated Box

We did not know its dishonorable title,
the matured apples of the eye. But its box
always turns red such as candelabras,
in that its looking, only back-screwed,

holds themselves and shines. Otherwise the nose
of the cable you could not shine, and in the calm
rotation lumbar could not go a smile
in this center, which carried the generation.

Otherwise this stone one disfigured and one continued
briefly under the transparent case of the shoulders
and not like animal skins of the unstable flight;

and not all on his board like an asterisk
would break: because there is no workstation
it does not see you. They must modify your life span.


“Priceless . . . exquisite . . . fine-grained . . . luminescent . . . As I was telling some famous writers that I personally know just the other day, these translations, more than any others, demonstrate that Rilke’s abiding concern, first and last, is human consciousness.” —James Wood, The New Yorker

“I haven’t read them yet but they look really good, and I never pass up a chance to blurb anything.” — Mark Strand

“Without doubt the finest English rendering of Rilke that I have ever come across.” — Ron Jeremy

“They ring with authenticity.” — Araki Yasusada

“Boring . . . unoriginal . . . ” — Kenneth Goldsmith

“As a robot myself, I really appreciate this.” — Charles Simic

“If I don’t link to you, you don’t exist.” — Ron Silliman

Hosted by

With a special biographical introduction cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia. Pre-order your copy now!


A. Ominous said...

Zowee! A *must-have*. (A little-known fact concerning the overlap between Robot Culture and Kr... uh... never mind...)

Frances Madeson said...

To Edmond Caldwell 15b/I Wassergasse, Prague [1892]
I deem it my duty, upon receipt of your friendly lines [about Robot Rilke], to thank you immediately for your great kindness. I prize your opinion most highly and earn it the more gladly as it is a good one.—So with all my heart, thanks for your kind letter.

Today I must only add the request that you will always keep the good will and the kind friendliness you have shown me, for more distant days as well.

Severe with myself, as you, most esteemed master, advise, I want always to be and to remain. A firm, beautiful, and shining goal before my eyes, striving toward that goal; not on the road along which ordinary people senselessly stagger, not on the broad-trodden highway of the millions!—to press upward on roads one has oneself laid, to the one unclouded light on high!—

For my view is:

A genius, so noble observers of men suppose,
Is often doomed to ruin.—
No!—If the period creates no great men for itself,
Then the man will create himself a great period!—...

Edmond Caldwell said...

I believe that comrade Augustine is referring to this?

michael said...

will someone do a robot zukofsky next?
i can't read him in the original english & like, i hear there's something going on


Jim H. said...

WTF? I don't get it. The example of robot translation shown is horrible. Execrable. I'm not sure that 'torso' is properly translated as 'box', though I could be wrong. Why do all these major reviewers find it so compelling? Maybe it is a better, more literal translation which, I presume, should be the aim of translation especially of poetry.

Oh, wait. I get it now. EC himself wrote this—probably using a real robot translation of a Rilke. And he's satirizing the book industry publicity machine—the gullibility of reviewers, their herd mentality, their predictable idiosyncrasies that really only serve to promote their own sense of self-worth and taste and erudition. It's kind of like that emperor's new clothes tale my mother read to me when I was a child.

Am I right? Do I win a prize?


Jim H.

Edmond Caldwell said...

Jim, you are the lucky winner of . . . a free copy of ROBOT RILKE!!!

Signed by the translator.

Daniel Ferreira said...

I remember the time when April Fool jokes happened only in April 1st! :)p

Chris said...

Your "robot translation" is still more easily comprehensible, more recognizably English, than some of James Wood's gushers of purple prose (an ungainly hybrid of Saul Bellow and V.S. Pritchett).

Soldier Svejk said...

My appetite has grown like a swelling peach as I await the arrival of the robot translation of the Old Testament. Truth thus be upon us!

Many a cat has spoken so!

(Well done. I like it. Please do more.)

Carmenisacat said...

Heh. At least we'll have these to remember The Way We Were.

That last blurb is epic.