Paul Celan: A Biography of His Youth

Israel Chalfen, Author, Maximillian Bleyleben, Translator, John Felstiner, Introduction by Persea Books $24.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-89255-162-0
Poet Paul Celan (1920-1970) experienced tremendous guilt because he survived a Nazi labor camp while his German-Jewish parents were murdered. Only after their deaths did a strong Jewish element work its way into the Rumanian-born poet's luminous verses. Chalfen--a Jewish native of Rumanian Bukovina, as was Celan--has pieced together a valuable portrait of the poet's early years, drawing on interviews and correspondence with friends and relatives. This quietly moving biography traces Celan's break from his Orthodox Jewish upbringing, his sojourn in Paris, young love for actress Ruth Lackner and flight from communist Rumania to Vienna in 1947. The book includes numerous poems, some translated into English for the first time, which Chalfen anchors to specific incidents in Celan's life and to a variety of influences from Rilke to Yiddish folk song. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1991
Release date: 11/01/1991
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