Paul Celan, translated by David Young

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Paul Celan, translated by David Young

Publication Date: Fall 2012
120 Pages
ISBN13:  978-1-934851-48-7
USD $14.95 + Shipping

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Paul Celan was, by common consent, among the most important poets of the twentieth century. In the second half of that century, he has no rivals, not least because of his surviving the Holocaust and then confronting it through his art. His 1959 collection, Sprachgitter, stands at the very center of his achievement, and it is here presented in its entirety, for the first time in English, by the noted translator David Young, along with a helpful introduction. Even the title of this collection is diffcult to render in translation, but Young’s choice, Language Behind Bars, reflects Celan’s sense of his diffculty, as a Jew living in France, writing in the language of the enemy and trying to reconstitute and resurrect its potential for poetry in the light of its corruption by the Nazis. Readers will value having the German texts on facing pages, in a continuous dialogue with David Young’s searching and scrupulous versions of these diffcult, masterly lyrics.

About the Author, Paul Celan

hunthspace=10Paul Celan was born Paul Antschel in Czernovitz, Romania, to a German-speaking Jewish family. His surname was later spelled Ancel, and he eventually adopted the anagram Celan as his pen name. In 1938 Celan went to Paris to study medicine, but returned to Romania before the outbreak of World War II. During the war Celan worked in a forced labor camp for 18 months; his parents were deported to a Nazi concentration camp, where they eventually died. After escaping the labor camp, Celan lived in Bucharest and Vienna before settling in Paris. In Paris, he translated poetry and taught German language and literature at L’École Normale Supérieure. Celan was familiar with at least six languages, and fluent in Russian, French, and Romanian. Though he lived in France and was influenced by the French surrealists, he wrote his own poetry in German. His first collection of poems, Sand from the Urns, was published in Vienna in 1948; his second collection, Poppy and Memory (Mohn und Gedaechtnis, 1952), brought him critical acclaim. Katherine Washburn, his translator, noted in her introduction to Last Poems (1986): “The title of this book [Poppy and Memory] pointed with a fine vividness to the central predicament of Celan’s poetry—the unstable and dangerous union between Paul Celan, caught early in that sensual music of the Surrealists, pure poet of the intoxicating line, and Paul Ancel, heir and hostage to the most lacerating of human memories.” Celan’s later poems often contain brief, fractured lines and stanzas, with compressed and unpredictable imagery, with the forms of the poems echoing the difficulty of finding language for the experiences he witnessed. His poem “Death Fugue” captures the horror of the Holocaust. Celan received the Bremen Prize for German Literature in 1958 and the Georg Buchner Prize in 1960. He suffered from depression and committed suicide in 1970.

About the Translator, David Young  

David Young is the author of eleven collections of poetry, most recently Field of Light and Shadow (2010), and of Seasoning: A Poet’s Year. He has translated a wide range of poets, including Rilke, Eich, Petrarch, Montale, Holub, Du Fu, Du Mu, and Basho. This collection is the second of three by Celan he is undertaking to present in their entirety. It stands as a companion to Marick Press’s recent From Threshold to Threshold (2010), Young’s celebrated version of Celan’s 1955 volume, Von Schwelle zu Schwelle.


“Celan’s English language readers, and readers to come, will be deeply grateful for this new translation of his third book. I admire David Young’s clear and respectful introduction, generous to his colleagues in Celan translation, and helpful in providing a broad context for this poetry; and I admire, especially, his faithfulness in spirit as he becomes a “waterdiviner” of Celan’s work. Young is a subtle, trusting reader of the ways this poet of poets took — as he had to — to create a completely new poetry. "
— Jean Valentine



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Upcoming Events

Sept24The Poets’ Follies Reading Series, sponsored by Marick Press and The Oakland University Writing Center, will feature the poetry of David Young, Todd Swift and Jason Storms at 6:30PM. The reading will be followed by a question and answer session.
Wednesday September 24, 2014
6:30PM, Room 212, Kresge Library at Oakland University
Rochester, MI 48309 
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