Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew

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9780300063875: Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew

Paul Celan was a German-speaking, East European Jew. His writing exposes and illumines the wounds that Nazi destructiveness left on language. John Felstiner's book is a critical biography of Celan. It offers new translations of well-known and little-known poems including a chapter on Celan's famous "Deathfugue" - plus his speeches, prose fiction and letters. The book also presents photos of the poet and his circle. Drawing on interviews with Celan's family and friends and his personal library in Normandy and Paris, as well as German commentary, Felstiner tells the poet's story: his birth in 1920 in Romania, the overnight loss of his parents in a Nazi deportation, his experience of forced labour and Soviet occupation during the war, and then his difficult exile in Paris. The life's work of Paul Celan emerges through readings of his poems within their personal and historical matrix. At the same time Felstiner finds insights by opening up the very process of translating Celan's poems To present this poetry and the strain of Jewishness it displays, Felstiner uncovers Celan's sources in the Bible and Judaic mysticism, his affinities with Kafka, Heine, Holderlin, Rilke and Nelly Sachs, his fascination with Heidegger and Buber, his translations of Shakespeare, Dickinson, Mandelshtram, Apollinaire. First and last, Felstiner explores the achievement of a poet surviving in his mother tongue, the German language that had passed, Celan said, "through the thousand darknesses of deathbringing speech."

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From Library Journal:

Celan (1920-70) is one of the great poets of this century. His world reputation rests on two aspects: he is a major German poet, and he is the preeminent poet of the destruction of European Jewish life. Felstiner's (English and Jewish studies, Stanford Univ.) literary biography is an engagement with Celan as a man and as a poet. His descriptions of the allusions and the translation problems of the great poems "Death Fugue," "The Vintagers," "Tenebrae," and "Stretto" are models of sympathetic reading. Celan's work as a translator (especially of Osip Mandelstam) and his friendship with Nelly Sachs are given the importance they are due. The difficult and hermetic late poems are worked through carefully. Celan was a successor to Holderlin as a German poet, and as a Jewish poet he was influenced by Buber's ideas of redemption through history and language. Celan killed himself in 1970. Highly recommended for literature collections.?Gene Shaw, NYPL
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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