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Poems of Paul Celan: A Bilingual German/English Edition, Revised Edition Paperback – November, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Persea Books; Revised edition (November 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089255276X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892552764
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

George Steiner has declared, "The quality of aloneness in Celan is pitiless." Paul Celan's hermetic, Holocaust-haunted works call out to us and then resort to difficulty, private language, and--in the late art--splintering and silence. Celan, who committed suicide in 1970, was born in Romania and wrote in a German taut with archetypes, archaisms, and neologisms, which has both frustrated and inspired fellow poets and translators. Michael Hamburger has been more daring than most. Laboring on a dual-language selection, he had to resort to biographical clues to unravel entire poems; he bluntly states that "much of Celan's later poetry can be intuitively grasped, but not rendered in another language, without as much knowledge as possible of his sources.... What makes them difficult is the terrain itself--a terrain in which milk is black, death is the all-encompassing reality--not the nature of its charting."

The reference is to Celan's most famous work, "Todesfuge" ("Death Fugue"), a poem which grows more harrowing with each reading, particularly the iconic lines "death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue / he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true." Hamburger's translation begins:

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon and in the morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there lies one unconfined...
Though this is among Celan's more accessible works, most of the poems in Hamburger's volume will reward, and stun, the attentive reader. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This bilingual edition spans the great and tragic German poet's career from 1920 until his suicide in 1970. In much of the work, "Celan writes about the Holocaust--though by contrast and allusion--in poems that are dark, sharply felt and authentic . . . economical in the extreme," determined PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I read only the English of this dual- language , original facing the translation, in the text book.
Shalom Freedman
This excellent edition of Paul Celan's major poetry (translated excellently by Michael Hamburger) provides the full scope of Celan's considerable genius.
Steiner
Art after Auschwitz must be prepared to show the damage, the tears in the fabric of what makes us human.
Brian A. Oard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Nessander VINE VOICE on April 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Poet and translator Michael Hamburger has done us an excellent service by giving us this book, which will certainly become the bilingual edition of choice for Paul Celan. A few words.
On Celan: Probably the second most important German-language poet of the 20th century after Rilke, but very different in style and mindset! Whereas Rilke provides incredible lyricism, Celan's poetry is jerky, raw, cut-off, even tortured. Struggling with how to write poetry in the German language after the Holocaust (Celan was a Jew), he chose to focus on the basics of language - prepositions, pronouns - and place the language under such pressure and in such tension that poetry could again speak. To Adorno's claim that there could be "no poetry after Auschwitz", Celan proved there was a way, but it was a very difficult one. If you have not yet come across Celan, I can heartily recommend him as one of the greats of the 20th century. His most famous poem is "Todesfuge" or "Death Fugue", but his other poems are also excellent. But be forewarned - this is no light verse. You'll get some heavy stuff, but you'll love it.
On Hamburger: he is a good poet in his own right and a wonderful translator, having already provided the best edition of Hoelderlin's poetry. Now that he has turned to Celan, we benefit very much from his efforts. Celan is incredibly difficult to translate, and the translator must make many choices and must try not to destroy the ambiguity in the German by reducing it simplistically into the English. Hamburger does a good job in this - in most cases a better job than Felstiner, who is the other main translator of Celan (and has a different collection). I would recommend Hamburger's translations over Felstiner. In most cases, he retains more, and there are fewer times when you will say "Eh?
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Philip Welsh on February 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
...have been for him to come across the words he found growing in himself in the tongue of the enemy:
Schimmelgrün ist das Haus des Vergessens.
Vor jedem der wehenden Tore blaut dein enthaupteter Spielmann.
Er schlägt dir die Trommel aus Moos und bitterem Schamhaar;
mit schwärender Zehe malt er im Sand deine Braue.
Länger zeichnet er sie als sie war, und das Rot deiner Lippe.
Du füllst hier die Urnen und speisest dein Herz.
------------------------------
Green as mould is the house of oblivion.
Before each of the blowing gates your beheaded minstrel turns blue.
For you he beats his drum made of moss and of harsh pubic hair;
With a festering toe in the sand he traces your eyebrow.
Longer he draws it than ever it was, and the red of your lip.
You fill up the urns here and nourish your heart.
---------------------------
I read these translations side-by-side with the originals, and find them to be about as ept as it gets -- German poetry is clunky enough put into English, but with Celan it gets completely out of hand -- his Deutsch reads like a patois of German and Martian -- twisting the sounds into shapes like a balloon-animal-maker before a birthday party of children, wringing meaning and context and consonance from consonantless animal cries, deep in the night, skinned on frost, in a crater of some prison moon, staring down at the earth very small and far away and jewellike from that distance...
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Brian A. Oard on August 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Adorno was wrong. There is poetry after Auschwitz, and this is what it looks like. Celan's short poems are compressed visions of horror. He tears at the fabric of language in order to render the torn fabric of reality. Reading Celan, I think of the best paintings by the contemporary German artist Anselm Kiefer, an artist who, like Celan, attacks his materials with fire, sometimes even burning gaping holes into his vast canvases. Art after Auschwitz must be prepared to show the damage, the tears in the fabric of what makes us human. Celan--and Kiefer, at his best--points toward a new way to be human. I cannot praise an artist more highly than that.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Paul Celan stands as one of the most influential and visible poets of the second half of the 20th-century. The work he produced from World War II to his suicide by drowning in 1970 has been lauded by subsequent poets, taught in German history courses, and set to music by Berio, Birtwistle, and Rihm. The central theme of most of Celan's poetry is the slaughter of European Jewry in the Holocaust, as the poet was born in a German-speaking Jewish enclave in Bucovina and there lost his parents and his home, scars which even a successful new life in Paris could never erase. This volume of selected poems with English translations by Michael Hamburger is a fine introduction to his work.

Celan's poem "Todesfuge" (Death Fugue) is one of his earliest mature pieces and the most common introduction to his poetry. It's opening lines "Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown / we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night / we drink and we drink it / we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined" are a powerful depiction of the death camps and fully repudiate Adorno's claim that poetry after Auschwitz is impossible.

Some critics have claimed that "Todesfuge" was Celan's only great poem and had it not been for that, then we would have never heard of him. That poem was certainly his break into the literary world, but other material in this volume is just as fine. "Einfuehrung" (The Straitening) is something of a rewriting of "Todesfuge" in considerably more desperate language and my favourite of Celan's poems. Here the motifs of the first poem are shattered into pieces ("Grass, written asunder. The stones, white / with the shadows of grass blades ... Ash. / Ash. ash. / Night. / Night-and-night.
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