Monday, November 23, 2020

On first reading Paul Celan, for his 100th birthday

In the spring of 1987 at Stanford, I took John Felstiner's course on "Literature of the Holocaust". The syllabus included Paul Celan, whose 100th birthday is today, in Felstiner's translations, and I was immediately drawn into Celan's sound. I got the two volumes of his poems in a Suhrkamp paperback and began slowly reading them with my year of German and a bilingual dictionary. Though the poems were often hard to follow, I assumed that was a matter of my then limited German. Years later I learned that Celan is "difficult", but I'd long since found my way into his poems through the sound that seized me before the sense did. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 23 November)

No comments: