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Message 274: Happy Misunderstandings

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote,

With nothing can one approach a work of art so little as with critical words: they always come down to more or less happy misunderstandings. Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures. (17)

Later he continues his critique of criticism:

… read as little as possible of aesthetic criticism—such things are either partisan views, petrified and grown senseless in their lifeless duration, or they are clever quibblings in which today one view wins and tomorrow the opposite. Works of art are of a infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them. (29)

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Trans. M.D. Herter Norton. Revised Ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1934.

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