Illustrated by Paul Klee
Novalis is one of the towering figures of German Romanticism. The Novices of Sais is a Romantic meld of poetry, philosophy, and transcendental journey. At once revolutionary yet profoundly simple, Novalis’s reverence for the natural world pours out of every page. Translated into French in 1925, it was embraced by artists and poets alike and was often quoted by the Surrealists. Paul Klee’s drawings were inspired by this visionary exploration of the inner life of modern humankind.
In his brief 29 years on earth, Novalis asked the questions heard in age-old mystery schools and his poems and poetic thinking lifted the inner life of the modern soul to new dominions. He is a founding spirit for the works of the likes of Rilke, Hesse, Heidegger and Celan, among many others, and this grand meditation on Nature reveals him at his finest.
— Jack Hirschman
There is much to parse and contemplate here, and so tightly grained and subtle are Novalis’s arguments, so pointed his portraits of the novices, so crystalline the details he limns, that his enchanted prose poem yields new insights with each reading. Novalis’s lustrous style and penetrating vision call to mind the books of W. G. Sebald, another writer whose work is at once mythic, philosophical, and acutely attuned to the living world.
The Novices of Sais is a kaleidoscope of interpretations, visions and allegories of nature . . . a transfiguration of the commonplace, giving “the ordinary a mysterious countenance, the known the dignity of the unknown."
— Ross Benjamin, The Nation