Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry— A Bilingual Edition

Paul Celan, trans. from the German and with commentary by Pierre Joris. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (736p) ISBN 978-0-374-12598-1
Hard to forget and harder to interpret, the dense and astonishing poems of Paul Celan (1920–1970) stand near the center of postwar European letters, and of Jewish writing after the Holocaust. This first appearance in English of the complete late volumes arrives thanks to a poet well suited to the task. Joris, a celebrated and prolific Luxembourger-American writer, has been translating Celan since 1967 and here finds beautiful—or terrifying—correlates for Celan’s wrenched and recombinant speech. Celan, raised amid many languages, spoke German at home. The Nazis killed his parents and held the poet in a labor camp until the end of the war. Celan settled in Paris, but wrote his poems in German. The later poems—six books, three of them posthumous—comprise new compounds, alienated images, hauntingly crystallized phrases that sound like nobody’s native tongue: critics find in them responses to the Holocaust, an “excavated heart,” a civilization beyond repair. To read Joris’s Celan is to see not only the insights and the horrors, but also intimacy, sexual jealousy, irony, even humor and hope. The exemplary en face edition also presents all the German; Joris provides a careful introduction and ample, learned notes. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/17/2014
Release date: 12/02/2014
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 736 pages - 978-0-374-53574-2
Ebook - 736 pages - 978-0-374-71421-5
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