It is well known and can be inferred by an online search that Rilke has used the comparison with the writing Johannes auf Patmos in The notebooks of Malte Laurid Brigge, namely in the 57th chapter of these notes, we read:

Aber demütigen hätte er sich müssen vor ihr in seinem ganzen Staat und schreiben was sie diktiert, mit beiden Händen, wie Johannes auf Patmos, knieend.

As Rilke often repeats himself in his works, especially in his letters, maybe because he wanted to say one and the same thing to several people, I was wondering if this comparison with the writing Johannes auf Patmos appears elsewhere in his works, and if so where precisely.

All appearances are welcome as an answer with correct citation to the source, but especially I am interested in the following: I am pretty sure I have read this comparison not only in The notebooks of Malte Laurid Brigge, but also in the volume of letters I show a picture of along with the complete list of letters. The question here is: Does this comparison specifically appear anywhere in the referenced letters or is it just a false memory of mine?

PS. Bing-AI does not give me a satisfying answer, and in google only the Brigge passage shows up as the letters are probably not open source.

PPS. I have already asked a similar question about Johannes auf Patmos on Chinese Language Stackexchange which I link for your information.

Book cover Table of contents 1 Table of contents 2 Table of contents 3

  • Not sure what you mean by "the writing Johannes auf Patmos". Google Translate suggests that the passage you quote (from the novel whose English title is "The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge") is a reference to someone looking like St. John on Patmos (presumably one of the many artworks on the subject). Oct 2 at 7:45
  • I know what the quote means. I'm German. I mean Johannes auf Patmos while he's writing with both hands... Oct 2 at 8:40
  • Thanks! Note that although "auf" means "on", we write "John of Patmos" in English. Oct 2 at 13:38
  • But Rilke says auf not von. This is nonstandard in German as well and I wanted to reflect this. Oct 2 at 13:48
  • Maybe we can say at in English. I don't know... Oct 2 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


Martina King's article "'Pathmos ist eine dürre Insel': briefliche Selbst-Fiktionalisierung beim späten Rilke", contained in the collection Rilkes Korrespondenzen, mentions the following letters that allude to John on Patmos:

  • to Erwein von Aretin, 7 Aug. 1915
  • to Marie Taxis, 16 Jan. 1912
  • to Magda von Hattingberg, 16-20 Feb. 1914
  • Do you have these letters at hand and can you quote the relevant passages where Rilke mentions Johannes auf Patmos? Oct 2 at 13:33
  • Just to clarify, the third letter by Magda von Hattingberg is indeed contained in my volume of letters at the very beginning (cf. pictures above). But the reference to John on Patmos is rather lame in there. I looked it up. Oct 4 at 10:58

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