Paul Celan: from 'Microliths,' translated by Pierre Joris
[The following selection (theoretical and critical fragments from between 1967 and 1969) is taken from Paul Celan, Mikrolithen sinds, Steinchen, the collected posthumous prose as edited by Barbara Wiedemann and Bertrand Badiou and published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2005. In that edition the roughly two hundred pages of Celan’s writings (divided into sections of aphorisms, narrative fragments, dialogues, notes, theoretical-critical fragments, unsent letters, and texts concerning the Goll affair) are followed by a seven-hundred-page apparatus of bio-bibliographic commentaries. My complete English translation of the texts with a reduced commentary section, from which the present excerpts are taken, will be published sometime in 2019. (P.J.)]
214. No poem after Auschwitz (Adorno):
What concept of the “poem” is being presented here? The arrogance of the one who dares hypothetically-speculatively to contemplate or poetically describe Auschwitz from the nightingale- or lark-perspective.
215. I don’t, in fact, write for the dead, but for the living — though of course for those who know that the dead too exist
Dichotomy of outside and inside world
Speechlessness and horror are contained in it — in the existence — though they don’t constitute it
the word Breathturn — in the Meridian — of a speech against artistry and for the human
these verses in no way stop before the splitting of reality into an outer and an inner
writes itself here-ward from its existential mother-ground
- The Jewish heritage Bialik,
2. Khurben in my poems
3. The state of Israel in my work
4. 2 poems
the one who learns how to respect the other in his alterity, without giving in to easy equations and identifications
217 Tinkering with Mandelstam, again
218 touch and cut across each other in the poetry
219 E. Fried: and planted the yellow star that others had worn for him — not every Jew is King of Denmark or even just a Danish prince —, now of all times, and FAZt* about the lost German East.
220 Aragon yesterday to the students: “Je suis un homme qui n’a pas plié / I am a man who didn’t fold.”
D’autres ont plié, ployé … /Others have folded, bent/
221 I am looking at Rembrandt’s self-portrait (the Cologne one), his gaze and his mouth distended by the contingencies, his head and a part of his coat gilded by contingencies, gnawed at by them, thought up by them, his staff splattered by two drops, three drops of that same substance.
45 rue d’Ulm
Paris, 10 May 1968
222 -i- “Threadsuns,” that is where the self-alienation of humans ends … and the self-alienating talk about exactly that self-alienation
223.1 To P.H. Neumann
The casualness with which you break through the — porous! — walls of a given poem, makes me sad.
The poem as lived language
223.3 The betrayed truth of my poems
223.4 -i- The fleetingness of what is said in the poem as what constitutes /Konstituens/ its — limiting and unlimiting — meaning.
223.5 -i- sweet empirics (teach)
223.6 -i- The poem — the other, regained, first voice of mankind
223.7 -i- P.H. Neumann’s book:
All in all clean, a few counted uncleanlinesses, the Jost Nolte-quote, for ex. In principle it does not depend on the “core-words,” not on their number, but on the context in which they appear in the single poem, in the single cycle, in the single volume, on the How and What of what is said around them and with them.
Not how often a word appears, but in whose company or, as the case may be, without whose company it arrives
223.8 -i- The gathered strangenesses stand against the daily, useful serviceable rhyme
223.9 Re the Russ. anthology:
For having rendered my poems unrecognizable, I thank you very much
223.10 I do not think that I have betrayed a single one of my poems
On Lyons’ comparatist (Buber a. Celan): you underestimate the creative and its paths
223.12 Ungaretti -i-
clogged with the Today
smudged with the Today
223.13 -i- the stripped poetry, that now stretches out to the corners
223.14 -i- still in contact with what sings
To orient myself between my few words