This review originally aired on October 17, 2016. You Must Change Your Life is now available in paperback.
Rachel Corbett’s You Must Change Your Life is resplendent with European art history of the early 20th century, and is also a detailed look at the deeply felt friendship of poet Rainer Maria Rilke and the sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Part one, Poet and Sculptor, shows how the lives of Rilke and Rodin intersect in September 1902. Rodin, by now well established as a sculptor of great renown, welcomes the young Rilke into his austere home after the frustrated poet accepts a commission to write a book about Rodin.
Part two, Master and Disciple, shows us how Rodin engaged Rilke by intimately allowing the poet entry into his artistic endeavors, struggles, and need to create. They spend hours conversing in the studio and around the grounds of Rodin’s home. Rodin defied convention by depicting the emotional landscape of his subjects in his sculptures. His public commission of Balzac embodied the physically unbridled emotional act of creating a masterpiece. The public was outraged; this was no dignified representation of a writer with pen in hand. Needless to say, the critics had a field day.
In part three, Art and Empathy, the artists have parted ways, and are facing the imminent occupation of Paris, and, finally, their tragic deaths.
Rachel Corbett, as any fine artist, has produced a work of great effect, and leaves a lasting and indelible mark on the reader.