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Thoughts about Boars and Paul Celan

Lawrence Norfolk: The Ways of the Boar, 6 January 2011

... also gefragt, wo ich meinen “Eber” herhaben mag,’ the Romanian-Jewish German-speaking poet Paul Celan wrote in a letter to the classicist Walter Jens in May 1961. ‘I’ve asked myself where I might have got my boar from.’ His query concerned the provenance of an image that had appeared in a poem published seven years earlier. Here, from ...

Catching

Michael Hofmann, 23 May 1996

Paul CelanPoet, Survivor, Jew 
by John Felstiner.
Yale, 344 pp., £19.95, June 1995, 0 300 06068 8
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Breathturn 
by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris.
Sun & Moon, 261 pp., $21.95, September 1995, 1 55713 218 6
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... Paul Celan was born in 1920 as Paul Antschel, to German-speaking Jewish parents in Czernowitz, the capital of the Bukovina: ‘a posthumously born Kakanier,’ he once said of himself (the city and province of his birth had been ceded to Romania in 1918, when the Habsburg Empire was broken up ...

The man who would put to sea on a bathmat

Elizabeth Lowry: Anne Carson, 5 October 2000

Economy of the Unlost (Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan
by Anne Carson.
Princeton, 147 pp., £18.95, July 1999, 0 691 03677 2
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Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse 
by Anne Carson.
Cape, 149 pp., £10, July 1999, 0 224 05973 4
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... of lyrics and epitaphs who was active in the fifth century BC, and the Jewish Romanian poet Paul Celan. Simonides was an original. His epitaphs, designed to be cut into stone and punctiliously composed according to the width of each letter, were lapidary in the original sense of the word. ‘An inscriptional poet,’ Carson explains, ‘has to ...

Catastrophe

Claude Rawson, 1 October 1981

The Sinking of the Titanic 
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Carcanet, 98 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 85635 372 8
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Paul CelanPoems 
translated by Michael Hamburger.
Carcanet, 307 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 85635 313 2
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Talk about the Last Poet 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 78 pp., £4.50, July 1981, 0 370 30434 9
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... by irony and allusion, in Enzensberger’s case, from the purported anguish and pain. Paul Celan was also a poet of holocaust (his parents died in an extermination camp, and he eventually killed himself) whose ‘aestheticism’ has been an issue: death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue he strikes with leaden bullets his aim is ...

Nonetheless

John Bayley, 2 February 1989

The Lost Voices of World War One: An International Anthology of Writers, Poets and Playwrights 
edited by Tim Cross.
Bloomsbury, 406 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 7475 0276 5
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Poems 
by Paul Celan, translated by Michael Hamburger.
Anvil, 350 pp., £15.95, January 1989, 0 85646 198 9
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Flights of Passage: Reflections of a World War Two Aviator 
by Samuel Hynes.
Bloomsbury, 270 pp., £13.95, November 1988, 0 7475 0333 8
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... this new and terrible age, to a silence like Hölderlin’s. Trakl is poetry’s worst war loss: Paul Celan, who killed himself after recording the horrors of the next war, is Trakl’s spiritual successor. Celan was the only poet of any nationality to do such a thing in poetry, and German is probably the only ...

Aardvark

John Bayley: In defence of Larkin, 22 April 1993

... as it were, a precise and searching idiom of distrust. But the real poet of these horrors, Paul Celan, had no such distrust. His vision of them is wholly individual, wholly his own; so that his words exist not beside the thing they describe but have become it. The language of real poetry can do that, and in so doing, as R.P. Blackmur put ...

Kelpers

Claude Rawson, 17 June 1982

St Kilda’s Parliament 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 87 pp., £3, September 1981, 0 571 11770 8
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Airborn/Hijos del Aire 
by Octavio Paz and Charles Tomlinson.
Anvil, 29 pp., £1.25, April 1981, 0 85646 072 9
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The Flood 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 19 211944 3
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Looking into the Deep End 
by David Sweetman.
Faber, 47 pp., £3, March 1981, 0 571 11730 9
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Independence 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 28 pp., £5, December 1981, 0 907540 05 8
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... than the city’s million filaments’, or in the B52s of ‘Love in Asia’. The starkness of Paul Celan, his sense of rock-bottom desolation, are absent, but Looking into the Deep End is a modest success in the painterly exploration of suffering. There is everywhere in the volume a vivid and disciplined visual exactitude, ‘vision in the factual ...

Excellent Enigmas

Christopher Reid, 24 January 1980

Lies and Secrets 
by John Fuller.
Secker, 70 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 436 16753 0
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Crossing 
by John Matthias.
Anvil, 125 pp., £3.25, October 1980, 0 85646 035 4
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Growing Up 
by Michael Horovitz.
Allison and Busby, 96 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 85031 232 9
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Report to the Working Party. Asylum. Otiose [preceded by] After 
by Anthony Barnett.
Nothing Doing, 121 pp., £4.80, August 1980, 0 901494 17 8
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... that I think they are appropriate. If you like this sort of thing – Rod McKuen, with a slight Paul Celan mordancy – then this is the book for ...

Rebecca, take off your gown

Adam Phillips, 8 May 1986

Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews 
by Sander Gilman.
Johns Hopkins, 461 pp., £25.10, March 1986, 0 8018 3276 4
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... could no longer really speak German because it was the language of their torturers. The poems of Paul Celan, like the mandarin polemics of Adorno, bear ample witness, as Gilman shows, to the new impossibilities. It is not surprising that the Jew as a mad person, the Jew as someone maddened by the world, should come to haunt post-holocaust ...

More like a Cemetery

Michael Wood: The Part about Bolaño, 26 February 2009

Nazi Literature in the Americas 
by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Chris Andrews.
New Directions, 227 pp., £17.95, May 2008, 978 0 8112 1705 7
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2666 
by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Natasha Wimmer.
Picador, 898 pp., £20, January 2009, 978 0 330 44742 3
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... us a three-page prophecy about which writers will be doing what in the 21st and 22nd centuries (‘Paul Celan shall rise from his ashes in the year 2113. André Breton shall return through mirrors in the year 2071. Max Jacob shall cease to be read, that is to say his last reader shall die, in the year 2059’). This narrator, who first appears and tells a ...

Dark Sayings

Thomas Jones: Lawrence Norfolk, 2 November 2000

In the Shape of a Boar 
by Lawrence Norfolk.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 297 64618 4
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... going beyond the text, in the relationship between myth, history and literature. Elements of Paul Celan’s life can be found in Memel’s (reviewers’ attention is drawn to this in the press release, but there’s no explicit mention in the novel): the Jewish Romanian background, the consequences of Nazism and the eventual exile in Paris. Above ...

In a Cold Country

Michael Wood: Coetzee’s Grumpy Voice, 4 October 2007

Diary of a Bad Year 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 231 pp., £16.99, September 2007, 978 1 84655 120 8
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Inner Workings: Essays 2000-2005 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 304 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 1 84655 045 4
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... up in Coetzee’s critical essays, where it is likely to appear as offhand authority. A poem by Paul Celan, we learn in the collection Inner Workings, ‘absorbs from the Surrealists everything that is worth absorbing’. So much for those excitable fellows with their politics and their attempts to reimagine the world. I’m a devoted admirer of the ...

‘Equality exists in Valhalla’

Richard J. Evans: German Histories, 4 December 2014

Germany: Memories of a Nation 
by Neil MacGregor.
Allen Lane, 598 pp., £30, November 2014, 978 0 241 00833 1
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Germany: Memories of a Nation 
British Museum, until 25 January 2015Show More
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... nor the exhibition has much to say. The show doesn’t dodge the difficult questions. Both Paul Celan’s Death Fugue and Kiefer’s work feature here as ways of remembering the 12 years of Nazi rule, but there are other, more prosaic objects too. The concentration camps are represented by a replica of a gate at Buchenwald, inscribed not with the ...

A Suspect in the Eyes of Super-Patriots

Charles Simic: Vasko Popa, 18 March 1999

Collected Poems of Vasko Popa 
translated by Anne Pennington.
Anvil, 464 pp., £12.95, January 1998, 0 85646 268 3
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... than Pennington can offer and he was capable of a verbal dazzle that makes him sound at times like Paul Muldoon. Pennington’s language is far more formal. Francis Jones, who expanded and revised the Collected Poems, is aware of the problem. Popa’s ‘words and images are multi-layered’, Jones says, ‘combining concrete representations with ...

Deadad

Iain Sinclair: On the Promenade, 17 August 2006

... unknown (or too well-known) man. A book, In the Wake of a Deadad, would emerge. Even silence – Paul Auster, Dinos Chapman, Richard Wentworth – would be published. ‘No reply’ becomes part of the texture, along with hesitations, prevarications, confessions. Many of the respondents turn Kötting’s challenge back on themselves: their refusal to look ...

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