22 February 2012

Conversations in the mountains

I really thought I had posted a piece about Paul Celan here, but apparently not. In attempting to rewrite what I thought I had written I have come across far better appraisals of his work than I could ever hope to write: so here they are:

Translating Paul Celan from Poetry International
How can one translate something that is untranslatable?  Paul Celan has often been accused of being hermetic in his poetry.  He himself said that was not the case.  His writing is pregnant with incomprehensible grief and longing.  One who reads Celan is left feeling the pain of Celan’s experience living through the Holocaust, his survivor’s guilt, and his anger toward Germany for her silence over the atrocities that occurred during the war.

Someone commenting on the above writes: "great poets deserve many translators" and so for me the best collection is this:

Paul Celan: Selections, edited by Pierre Joris

This is one of the most compelling books of poetry I have read for a long long time and thank you Hobart poet Benny Walter for pointing this edition out to me. I have long been a fan of Celan and for those not familiar with his work, this small collection is described as the "best introduction to the work of Paul Celan". It "offers a broad collection of his writing in unsurpassed English translations along with a wealth of commentaries by major writers and philosophers.

"(Selections is based on Celan's own 1968 selected poems, though enlarged to include both earlier and later poems, as well as two prose works, The Meridian, Celan's core statement on poetics, and the narrative Conversation in the Mountains. This volume also includes letters to Celan's wife, the artist Gisèle Celan-Lestrange; to his friend Erich Einhorn; and to René Char and Jean-Paul Sartre—all appearing here for the first time in English." (University of California Press website).

This collection is also included in an elite listing of "Books for the Millennium" on the University of California press website


JM Coetzee's review of a biography of Celan (from the NY review of books)
Review of Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew  by John Felstiner.

(I'll be adding to this post in a short while)

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