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Selected Poems of Kuno Raeber

Kuno Raeber

Translated by Stuart Friebert


These translations of a wide range of the poems of the Swiss poet, Kuno Raeber (1922-92), come from a life of many interests in matters theological—he once studied to become a Jesuit; philosophical—his PhD was in philosophy; and cultural history—he was a lecturer in history at German universities. The settings are often timeless in nature; their subjects and objects, as Christiana Wyrwa writes in the comprehensive introduction, often “move from real situations into magical surroundings;” and readers are advised not to look “for rationally understandable connections” as they make their way through real land- and seascapes to interiors where the world is powered by uncertainty but on the cusp of righting itself again. The translator, Stuart Friebert, produces, as closely as possible, Raeber’s lineations and rhythmic patterns, straight down to individual word choices.

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Born in 1922 in Klingau (Aargau), Kuno Raeber grew up in Lucerne, Switzerland, went on to study philosophy, literature, and history in Basel, Zurich, Geneva, and Paris. Along the way, he studied for the priesthood, but lost his path after a “spiritual crisis.” In 1958, he settled in Munich as a freelance writer, where he spent most of his life, aside from trips abroad to Oberlin as Max Kade Writer-in-Residence and to the Swiss Institute in Rome. An early member of the Gruppe 47, he survived malicious attacks by the group, but prevailed with the support of a few sympathetic writers, and by the time he died in 1992, he had won a number of prestigious literary prizes and produced a commanding body of poems, stories, novels, plays, essays, reviews, and translations, which have recently been collected in a definitive seven-volume edition edited by Christiane Wyrwa and Matthias Klein. Stuart Friebert spent a year in Germany as one of the first U.S. exchange students after World War II. He received his PhD in German Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He taught at Oberlin College until the mid 1970s and founded Oberlin’s Creative Writing Program. He cofounded Field Magazine, later the Field Translation Series and Oberlin College Press. He is the author of numerous books, including Funeral Pie and Floating Heart. He’s also published ten volumes of translations.


“Stuart Friebert’s long friendship with Raeber and close reading of these poems make him a superb translator. Using the poet’s vocabulary and rhythmic patterns, he brings Raebert to life, introducing us to a different kind of mystic–a realist whose aesthetically gorgeous spiritual investigations refuse to overreach. . . . In Raeber we also get word art of the highest order.”–Deborah Bogen, World Literature Today

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