Paul Celan Tenebrae

September 22, 2022
2015. Shoah Film Collection

Review by Jack Hanson — posted on March 16, 2015

Breathturn Into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry by Paul Celan (trans. Pierre Joris). $40.00, 736 pp. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Inside the 1947 Letter on Humanism, German philosopher Martin Heidegger makes the famous declare that language “is the home of Being.” What he means by it is, just like nearly every thing Heidegger typed, an interest of discussion. The letter itself produces a distinctly defiant, not to say polemical result, reflective of those turbulent postwar years in Europe. Its target could be the set of French intellectuals called existentialists, lead by Jean-Paul Sartre, whom Heidegger seems has actually misinterpreted the philosophical project inside the landmark becoming and Time through the use of a few of its statements as a foundation for a metaphysics. He continues on to express your “reversal of a metaphysical declaration remains a metaphysical statement . . . [Sartre] remains with metaphysics in oblivion associated with truth of Being.”

But, after that, there are numerous various other things from which Heidegger claims essentially the ditto about Being and Time itself, thin criticism of Sartre is equally a self-criticism. Following what scholars relate to as his “turn, ” Heidegger will even stop discussing his or her own are philosophy, as an alternative preferring terms like “reflection, ” and “deep thinking.” This turn is described as a deep involvement with poetry, specially the German lyric poet Hölderlin. The cause for this turn is disputed, however it is definitely attached to the thinker’s disillusionment with nationwide Socialism, which activity’s later collapse, a meeting which precipitated Heidegger’s brief but powerful ostracization from German philosophical community. The concern Heidegger placed on rootedness and authenticity in his very early work (which, perhaps not incidentally, most likely led him to embrace Nazism) underwent a shift in focus in which he became dedicated to “dwelling.” It's in language, he writes into the Letter, that a person being dwells.

This later work assisted to expand the thinker’s world of influence beyond scholastic philosophy and into every area of humanistic inquiry, from artistic arts, to psychoanalysis, towards study of poetry itself. A lot of those engaged in these areas also went along to check out Heidegger inside the secluded cabin in Todtnauberg, deep into the Ebony woodland. One such customer had been the poet and, shockingly, Nazi work-camp survivor, Paul Celan. Just one poem, called just “Todtnauberg, ” deals with this encounter right, but the deep, metaphysical anxiety that drove Celan to generally meet the philosopher in many respects animated their whole job.

Celan as a poet and as a man was, possibly above all others, deeply involved because of the disaster of this mid-twentieth century, in accordance with poetry as the greatest phrase of that tragedy and chance for a way forward. Fitting, then, he must have encountered a change comparable to Heidegger’s midway through their composing life, abandoning many what could possibly be seen as the original components of their poetic style and experimenting in dark, often unusual tones, vocabularies, and frameworks as a means of pushing up against what he—and European countries in general—had witnessed. The outcomes with this effort comprise Breathturn Into Timestead, an exceptional, bilingual version of Celan’s publications from finals several years of his quick, yet very productive life.


Paul Celan was created Paul Antschel in Czernowitz, Romania (now Chernivsti, Ukraine) in 1920. Deeply alert to the failure associated with Habsburg Empire as an epochal shift in European record, Celan was from an early age attracted to the continent’s traditions as embodied with its literatures. Apart from the large German spoken home and just what translator Pierre Joris calls in the introduction to Breathturn Into Timestead the “usual Czernowitz languages” of Romanian, Ukranian, and Yiddish, Celan studied Latin, Ancient Greek, French, English, Italian, Russian, and (until he ended after his club mitzvah to distance himself from his father’s Zionism) Hebrew. This extraordinary linguistic ability allowed Celan to perform a number of important translations throughout their life.

At eighteen years of age, while going through Austria and Germany on his way to learn medicine in France, the young poet witnessed the first significant aftereffects of the Anschluss on Germany and Austria’s Jews. It absolutely was perhaps not at all their first experience with anti-Semitism, however it truly noted an alteration, to put it mildly. You've Got difficulty imagining also a new Celan being possessed of wide-eyed idealism, however it is not unlikely that for an individual so dedicated to language and literary works, chief one of the Nazi crimes ended up being that they gave their particular instructions for slaughter within the tongue of Goethe, Schiller, and Hölderlin.

After a-year in health college, he went back to Czernowitz, and, not able to travel back again to France due to the war, enrolled in their local college to keep their researches, not in medicine, however in Romance languages. It is using this time that his thirty-one several years of enduring poetry start, though none with this time ended up being published until after their demise in 1970. Two years later, following Soviet career and subsequent Nazi intrusion of their homeland, Celan’s moms and dads were used the evening and deported to focus camps. The guilt at devoid of been there together—he was in fact in a hideout which a buddy had guaranteed for him, also to which their parents refused to go, not wishing to abandon their home—haunted the poet throughout his life. The next 12 months, while employed in a labor camp, he found that Nazi protections had shot both his mama and his dad. He invested the rest associated with the Nazi profession within the work camp and, in 1944, the Soviet re-invasion secured his freedom.

He travelled to Bucharest, after that to Vienna, and, after a long period in Paris, became a naturalized French resident in 1955, even while broadening his capabilities and reputation as a poet and translator. He taught during the École Normale Superieure, summered in a country cottage. He was hitched in 1948, had a son in 1953, destroyed him, had another in 1955. In 1960, the death of a pal, Yvan Goll, spurred accusations of plagiarism from the friend’s widow against Celan, which caused a firestorm when you look at the German literary hit. Despite its falsity and fast disproof, the scandal had been a turning point for currently psychically volatile Celan. He became more and more violent and threatened his partner on several events. When she requested a separation, he tried suicide, severely damaging their lung with a penknife, which missed his heart by inches. He was in and out of psychiatric institutes the rest of their nevertheless productive life, and, in 1970, he jumped into the Seine. Their body had been discovered a few times later. Joris tends to make a note that holds reproducing:

On their desk Paul Celan had kept Wilhelm Michael’s biography of Hölderlin, Das Leben Friedrich Hölderlins, lying available to web page 464. He'd underlined the following phrase from a letter by Clemens Brentano: “Sometimes this genius goes dark and drowns into the bitter wells of their heart.”


Throughout their life, Paul Celan was troubled because of the connection with the Shoah, along with his later works see him undergoing some thing analogous on submit Heidegger’s thinking. Before book of Breathturn (which marks the start of Breathturn Into Timestead), Celan ended up being heavily impacted by both old-fashioned poetry from multiple languages and surrealists with who he invested much of their childhood. Also his darkest poems, for instance the popular “Todsfuge, ” or “Deathfugue, ” contain some metaphorical lightness, a pleasure in play of images, inspite of the horror of the content.

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Paul Celan: Tenebrae - Trianarts
Paul Celan: Tenebrae - Trianarts
Paul Celan: Tenebrae
Paul Celan: Tenebrae
Previewversion: Paul Celan -Tenebrae-
Previewversion: Paul Celan -Tenebrae-
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