Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry of Paul Celan

Paul Celan, trans. from the German by Pierre Joris. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40 (608p) ISBN 978-0-374-29837-1
This ambitious bilingual edition completes Joris’s herculean effort to translate all of Celan’s poetry into English. Celan’s experiences of trauma as a Holocaust survivor permeate poems such as “Todesfuge” (“Deathfugue”): “Black milk of dawn we drink you at night/ we drink you at noon death is a master from Deutschland/ we drink you evenings and mornings we drink and drink.” Celan expresses the propulsive, hypnotic unraveling of the world through his fragmented refrain. Elsewhere, he paints himself as a perpetual outsider: “Blacker in black, I am more naked./ Only as a renegade am I faithful./ I am you when I am I.” The importance of seeing and witnessing comes up again and again throughout: “Gaze-trade, finally, at untime:/ imagefast,/ lignified,/ the retina—:/ the eternity-sign.” Joris’s introduction and commentary provide useful historical and literary context. This admirable translation presents the early work of an eminent German language postwar poet to a new audience. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 11/12/2020
Release date: 11/03/2020
Genre: Poetry
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