Word Traces:
Readings of Paul Celan

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Scholarly essays · Editor · Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994, xxv + 404 pages · Cover: Håkan Rehnberg, Untitled (1990) · ISBN 0-8018-4525-4


The crucial role of Paul Celan in postwar literature is widely recognized among European scholars, but has been addressed only scarcely in the Anglo-American academy. In Word Traces, Aris Fioretos attempts to redress that imbalance, bringing together thirteen expert readers in the most extensive English-language critical collection on Celan yet published.

The volume begins with the first complete English translation of Jacques Derrida’s book-length essay, “Schibboleth for Paul Celan.” Chapters by Otto Pöggeler, Dennis J. Schmidt, and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe then explore the relationship of poetry and philosophy in Celan’s work. Christopher Fynsk, Joel Golb, and Werner Hamacher discuss the interrelation of poetry and poetics, and Anders Olsson, Hans-Jost Frey, and volume editor Aris Fioretos examine the peculiarly “written” character of Celan’s poetry. In the book’s final section, chapters by Hans-Jost Frey, Thomas Pepper, and Leonard Olschner treat the implications of Celan’s practice of translation.



Ein Kritiker ist ein Leser, der wiederkäut.
— Friedrich Schlegel

In late March 1970, less than a month before he died, Paul Celan met with friends and acquaintances, among them Martin Heidegger, at Gerhart Baumann’s home in Freiburg. According to Baumann’s account, Celan was presented with a recently published essay which juxtaposed his poetry with that of Mallarmé. After having read it, he turned to his host “in an agitated state of mind”; “What offended him,” Baumann observes, “what had called forth his vehement rejection, was the comparing juxtaposition. Celan opposed any attempt at comparison and insisted on the incomparable.”1

The role of Celan’s poetry in postwar literature has received ample attention. Surely one of the most rapidly growing secondary literatures, Celan scholarship recognized early the centrality of his work for an understanding of the position of poetry in a period of particularly distressed self-examination. Few oeuvres in modern German can have received as subtly detailed or as philologically thorough attention as that of Celan — for that matter, few in any other language, either. During his short lifetime (Celan would have turned fifty in the year of his death) dissertations had already been produced; a great deal of scholarly work promulgated in the form of papers, essays, and seminars; and critical differences of opinion articulated in that particularly implacable manner characteristic of academic discourse. By now, Celan scholarship has a Jahrbuch, colloquia are arranged frequently, and a five volume edition of Celan’s more or less finalized work is currently being replaced by a text-critical edition of his complete writings. Hardly surprisingly, the differences of opinion, too, have graduated into minor Streite der Fakultäten.

Yet even today, when the awareness of Celan’s crucial position in contemporary poetry and poetics may appear in greater evidence than ever before, there are few attempts made to read the way in which his writing insists on its incomparability. Studies of Celan in the context of the literature of the Holocaust are certainly numerous, as are studies orienting themselves in his work by means of biographical coordinates; the attempt to understand Celan as the last representative of a tradition in German letters running from Hölderlin through Rilke has been made over and over, albeit with varying success, as has the endeavor to interpret his poetics with reference to the ideas of thinkers as diverse as Adorno and Freud, Buber and Habermas, Benjamin and Heidegger. A structurally defining component of these endeavors is, of course, comparison, and one would certainly be hard pressed to argue that an understanding of Celan can be dissociated completely from that principle.

Nonetheless it may be claimed that if Celan’s poetry is not analyzed with regard to the particular way in which it articulates the relation between literature and its other — or, put differently, between language and reference — attempts to read his poetry would run the risk of neutralizing it by introducing categories such as “the Hölderlinian tradition,” “hermeticism,” or “poetry after Auschwitz.” These categories are as necessary as they are legitimate; furthermore, and with justification, they point to contexts in which Celan’s oeuvre must, at least initially, be situated. These contexts, which become available only by means of comparison, would then open spaces in which the singularity of Celan’s poetry could resonate as that which would have no counterpart.

One may ask, however, to what extent contexts can be read and still remain contexts, and also in what measure such categories do not domesticate what is essentially other. Indisputably, Celan’s highly charged poems refer to conditions, situations, and events of tormenting importance, as necessary as they are difficult to address. When he invokes the cesura, for example, Celan (who was surely aware of the term’s theoretical implications in Hölderlin and Benjamin) may also be using a term from metrics as a designation for that which has been named the Holocaust. “Ich trink Wein” (“I Drink Wine”), a poem partly about Hölderlin collected in the posthumous 1976 volume Zeitgehöft, speaks of one instance of such a cesura, more precisely of the “king’s cesura.”2 When drastically initialized, Celan’s two-noun “Königszäsur” becomes KZ, the abbreviation for “concentration camp” — itself a concentrated name for that which remains incomparable.

But if a significant part of Celan’s poetry concerns the necessity of finding words for grave historical circumstances, a crucial part of what is at stake in it pertains to the difficulty of doing so. His texts, that is, are not only made up of references to important historical events, but are also about the possibility of such reference. As such, they reflect on how language relates to the necessity of referring to something other than itself, and thus on the indispensability of an aspect of it about which it cannot provide knowledge.

Insofar as they reflect upon the medium in which they are articulated, Celan’s texts also present a language acutely at odds with itself. In greater measure than most other poetry, then, Celan’s demands to be read with particular attention to textual details, but also with regard to those components of the poem which may not be verbal, but which nonetheless participate in its manner of making a difference. The contraction of a word may prove to offer unexpected possibilities of meaning here, an anagram to contain an oblique commentary to what is thematized in a poem, and a quotation turn out to be the nucleus in a drama of vital historical significance. In the case of Celan, old categories of understanding demand to be reconsidered, abandoned, or resharpened, and the “punctuation mark” — a “Satzzeichen” which in the 1967 Atemwende poem “Solve” characteristically stands for

. . . den unzähligen zu
nennenden un-
Namen aus-
einandergeflohenen, ge-
Schrift . . . (GW, II, 82)

(. . . the sequestered writ that
has dis-
into the
countless, un-
to be uttered
names . . .) (P, 257)

— may also be that particular sign attesting to why the distinction between the poetic text considered as the representation of spoken language and its definition as a written construction is so crucial in his poetry.

While they often engage in comparisons as necessary as they may be insufficient, the essays collected in this volume emphasize various facets of that which eludes comparison in Celan. Some underscore the way in which his poetry engages in and relates to contemporary philosophy, especially as articulated by Heidegger (Pöggeler, Schmidt, and Lacoue-Labarthe); some stress the poetics of singularity as well as of alterity which emerges from Celan’s prize addresses in Bremen and Darmstadt but also from his actual poetic production (Derrida, Fynsk, Golb, and Hamacher); while others pursue the problematization of interpretability and history in his works (Olsson, Frey, and Fioretos) or discuss Celan’s radicalization of the work of the translator (Frey, Pepper, and Olschner).

Several of the essays ask how interpretation can be conceived of as an activity already taken into account by Celan’s writing; some address the effects arising from this complication; and others ask what the implications of Celan’s poetics are for a theorization of the relationship between literature, history, and philosophy. In various ways, however, the essays all address the central question of how Celan may be read today and what is involved in such a reading — not least for an understanding of the position of contemporary criticism. This pursuit involves the far from trivial suggestion that poems remain “en route,” as Celan puts it in his Bremen prize address: “they are headed toward. / Toward what? Toward something open, inhabitable, an approachable you, perhaps, an approachable reality” (GW, III, 186 / CP, 35).

The articulation of such a critical “toward” is at stake in Celan’s poetry as well as in the reading of it. In large part, then, the following essays are critical in a double sense: they demonstrate an awareness of the intersection of language and reference (the apostrophic “you” being the figure par excellence of reference) operative not only in Celan’s poems themselves, but also articulating the relationship between his poetry and the analysis of it; moreover, they are critical because they may serve as a ground for subsequent readings.

Containing translations of already published texts as well as original contributions, the volume’s ambition is to bring independent but interrelated studies of Celan’s poetry into a critical constellation. The particular desire of this ambition may be understood as an aim to provide an occasion to examine and pursue the literary, philosophical, and historical implications of an instance of poetic activity which so far has received relatively scant attention in the Anglo-American academy. Despite continuous scholarship on the Continent, Celan’s poetry remains less often discussed in the English-speaking world, where his influence has been primarily on poets and writers. For a long time, and for many reasons, it could not have been otherwise. Celan’s texts are of a density and linguistic inventiveness that can only be converted in acts of translation as faithful as they are betraying: faithful in that particular meaning must be conveyed in the act of linguistic transfer; betraying in that this act, by virtue of being a transfer from one signifying system to another, necessarily fails to convey the internal tensions between the various idioms constituting the original.3

The difficulties of translation, however, do not amount to the sole cause of the lack of a widespread critical Celan reception in the Anglo-American world, one which moves beyond the scholarly article or conference paper.4 Paradoxically, though perhaps not altogether surprisingly, it was not until Celan had been received critically in France that his poetry began to make its way into the Anglo-American academy. This detour is probably due to the orientation of contemporary theory towards French philosophy and its relationship to the German tradition.5 Thus some of the volume’s contributions, notably those by Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe, provide examples of the reception of Celan in France, his country of adoption (other examples of this reception, such as those of Blanchot and Levinas, can be found in English translation elsewhere, whereas yet others, such as those of Martine Broda and Jean Greisch, still await translation). Other contributions contained in the volume, by Pöggeler and Frey, for instance, offer instances of the on-going scholarship in German, Celan’s native as much as adopted tongue; while the essays of Hamacher and Olschner, for example, are written at the intersection of Continental and Anglo-American academic pursuits.

There were, of course, early and incisive attempts to introduce Celan into the English-speaking world of letters — notably by Jerry Glenn and James K. Lyon.6 Since then, many essays have been produced on his poetry, among which those by John Felstiner, Rainer Nägele, Elizabeth Petuchowski, Howard Stern, and Shira Wolosky stand out as of particular interest.7 Notwithstanding this important work, however, a thorough reception of Celan in the Anglo-American world still remains a matter for the future. By juxtaposing some of the most attentive readings of Celan by foreign scholars with new essays by their English-speaking colleagues, it is the tacit desire of the present volume to provide indices toward such a future.

In a sense, translation is the art of loss — as for Celan, an accomplished translator, all poetry must exist in relation to loss. In his Bremen address, speaking of the place from which he has come (a “place” as much a topos in literature as a place localizable in any geography), Celan says of this relation:

Only this one thing remained reachable, close and un-lost amid all losses: language.

Yes, it, language, remained un-lost, in spite of everything. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through and gave no words for what was happening; but went through it. Went through and could surface again, “enriched” by it all. (GW, III, 185-86 / CP, 34 [trans. modified])

This sarcastically twisted “enrichment,” with its deadly deepening of verbal meaning, stands in close proximity to memory in Celan. In the “Meridian,” he explicitly approaches the way in which linguistic density is linked to memory, especially to what is termed — by way of Benjamin — “eingedenk sein,” when speaking of “a kind of concentration mindful of all our dates [eine aller unserer Daten eingedenk bleibende Konzentration]” (GW, III, 198 / CP, 50). This highly charged “concentration” relates to the notion of reading (Lesen) at work in Celan’s poetry, often understood etymologically (as “plucking” or “gathering”) and at once close to and decisively different from, for example, that found in Heidegger.

The difference articulating such comparison — a comparison hardly arbitrary in the sense that, besides Benjamin, Heidegger and Celan must be considered the most insistent advocati lectionis in twentieth-century German thought about language — may be illuminated by a passage from a letter which Heidegger wrote to Emil Staiger in December 28, 1950. “But to read,” he adds in a postscript to the letter, “what else is that than to gather [sammeln]: to collect oneself in focusing on the unspoken in what is spoken [sich versammeln in der Sammlung auf das Ungesprochene im Gesprochenen]?”8 In the case of Celan’s poetry — for which dispersal, as “Solve” indicates, is a central category, and for which any “gathering” must remain a profoundly problematic activity — reading necessitates not so much a “focusing on the unspoken in what is spoken” as a double-edged concentration on that which remains strictly unspeakable. This unspeakability, expressionless as the cesura in Hölderlin, “unutterable” as the “countless . . . names” in “Solve,” could be argued to be the marker of what, finally, lacks comparison in Celan.

The impossibility of naming the incomparable — the Bremen address can only describe it as that which happened (das, was geschah) — is an impossibility the effects of which demand reading. For even if incomparability may elude conceptualization — and what is a concept if it does not erase, in the name of generality, the singularity of that which cannot be compared? — it still remains possible to address it critically. Thus while resisting appropriation in a positivistic vocabulary, incomparability may nonetheless be described and theorized in terms of the effects it produces in a given act of reception. The engagement in such acts of reading describes the collected effort of the essays included in this volume.

“No work of art claims that it is incomparable,” Peter Szondi remarks in his treatise on “philological cognition,” since “this would be claimed, in any event, only by the artist or the critic.” Yet, he argues, “it demands that it simply not be compared.”9 This demand — more a speech act than a statement of cognition, thus duly on the order of the work of art rather than on that of the author or interpreter — is also the imperative to read Celan.10 “The art of reading slowly,” as Roman Jakobson is said to have remarked,11 philology may be a particularly instructive practice of tracing patiently that which comes to pass in a given wording. As Celan’s “Give the Word” puts it with characteristic simplicity, what it recognizes as occuring may be the coming of a man: “Es kommt ein Mensch” (GW, II, 93 / P, 265).

One particular trace of these words may be traced back to one of Hölderlin’s late hymns, entitled “Der Einzige” and explicitly concerned with a “man.” In the third version of “The Only One,” it is said that “a trace of a word nonetheless remains, however, which a man perceives. The place, though, was the desert”:

. . . Es bleibt aber eine Spur
Doch eines Wortes; die ein Mann erhascht. Der Ort war aber

Die Wüste . . .12

This “trace of a word,” of which Celan’s words, in their turn, may well be a trace, is itself a trace of another word: it refers to Matthew 4,4, where Christ (the “only one” of the poem’s title) is tried after having spent forty days fasting in the desert. He is asked to convert stones into bread; given the limitations of the language of man, however, a language in which words may do a great deal but can hardly transform themselves into the bread of which the Bible speaks, Christ answers by referring to some words in Deuter 8,3 — which in their turn are traces of those in Exodus 16,15, where God made bread fall from heaven. In Hölderlin, then, to “remain” (bleiben) within those “limits drawn by language” mentioned in the “Meridian” (GW, III, 197 / CP, 49) is necessarily to refer to other traces of words. Given the inability of an arbitrary system of signifiers to become their signifieds, language will never provide man with food for thought in the way bread can, but will always only remain traces of traces of traces . . .

As has been pointed out, the particular “trace of a word” in “The Only One” is not only available as a chain of signifying regression into an ever-deeper textual anteriority, but also materially as its own turning-into-trace: the Wort of which the poem speaks disperses in the movement of the text’s articulation and becomes itself a trace at the very place of dispersal: in that “Wüste” which is its “Ort.”13 In effect, the “place” at which the vestiges of the word are “perceived” proves to be the desert in question: the poem’s “word” turns into a “trace,” and its text amounts to the very topos of this dispersal.

In the passage suggesting that the poem remains aware of the “limits drawn by language,” the “Meridian” also speaks of an attention to “the possibilities it opens” (GW, III, 197 / CP, 49). Poetry, then, is defined equally by the limitations of language rather than those of bread, as by the possibilities of something yet to come — the promise of “an approachable reality,” but thus necessarily also of perhaps more sinister things. Indeed, the “word” of Hölderlin is itself only in the passage between that to which it no longer amounts (word) and that which it becomes (trace). In order to survive as the trace of itself, this Wort must waste itself semantically and become that Wüste which is the Ort for such a devastating event. The traces of this movement — W . . . ort — become the remnants in a “desert” in which the language of man will never provide any sustenance other than a meaning that runs the risk of always being further dispersed, an erring without semantic stability.

Celan’s late poem “Mit den Sackgassen” (“To Speak With”), contained in the 1971 Schneepart, mentions such an “expatriate / meaning” (“expatriierten / Bedeutung”) and suggests:

Brot kauen, mit
Schreibzähnen. (GW, II, 358)

(to chew
this bread, with
writing teeth.) (LP, 119)

In a text characterized by linguistic terseness, the “bread” in question is that white, unwritten material which, in the form of a blank space, precedes the final stanza of the poem and which can never be assimilated into understanding. To chew it with “writing teeth” may be to take part in this bread in an act of receptive activity, yet without ever being able to digest it comprehensively. It is a bread that no act of reading while writing, however sharp its teeth, can capture or swallow except by transcribing it into something else. As in the case of that “inedible writing” mentioned in a late fragment of Hölderlin’s “Patmos,”14 Celan’s poetry demands to be read with greatest care and attention, in a process also aware of those constitutive elements of otherness which may not be assimilable or turned into meaning.

The most accurate mode of reception of this poetry is that of commemoration or eingedenk bleiben, in which reading quite literally is what remains. Such bleiben may well require a “connoisseurship of the ‘word’“ similar to the one heralded by Nietzsche, for whom philology had “nothing but delicate, continuous work to do and achieves nothing if it does not achieve it lento.”15 Elsewhere, in conjunction with this particular “art of reading,” Nietzsche explicitly demands “something that has been unlearned most thoroughly nowadays . . . : rumination.”16 But if the fourfold art of explication required by classical hermeneutics is troped here on the four bellies of a cow, and if the experience of “modernity” remains one of the important categories in any understanding of Celan (pace Nietzsche), it is probably the patient Wiederkauen uniting these forms of “digestion” which describes most adequately the proper activity of reading his poems.

What remains incomparable, today, in Celan’s poetry, are its traces of words — its remnants of expatriated meaning — which can never be assimilated successfully in the “rumination” of any interpretation. Here, the poem may be both “word spew” (“Wortaufschüttung” [GW, II, 19]) and an “unmouthed lip” (“Entmündigte Lippe” [GW, II, 36]). Faced with this sort of music, in which a “singable remnant” (“Singbarer Rest” [GW, II, 36]) will always be left over, reading must amount to a concentration mindful of those singular dates which also mark the poem’s unique contusions. Yet by trying “to make the wound legible,” as Celan’s friend and colleague Nelly Sachs suggested in a late poem,17 reading also amounts to a precarious activity in which traumas of memory are converted into meaning, traces transformed into words of exegesis. Thus, as is indicated by the poem providing the title of this volume, “Dein vom Wachen,” the fate of reading may also be to understand at the expense of inflicting pain once more — albeit hermeneutically, by way of transcription; to read to the quick as well as to carry across “the wound-read”:

sie setzt
Wundgelesenes über.18

Exploring the tension between über-setzen with separable prefix, “to take across,” and übersetzen with unseparable prefix, “to translate,” Celan’s poem speaks of carrying through and across that which has been read to the quick. The wound mentioned — one inflicted by reading, it would seem — is the wound of language. During the twenty-five years Celan wrote in German, this wound both healed and deepened. Yet to say that it is readable may prove problematic, as Derrida points out in his contribution to this volume, “for it is also unreadable, and this is why it wears out reading to the very marrow.” “But,” he adds, the wound “belongs to the experience of reading . . . even . . . to that of translation, for the setzt . . . über, which could not be translated by ‘translates’ under any circumstances, also passes over this grammatical impossibility to beckon toward the translation of this reading-wound, passing over the border to the other side, the side of the other.”

The particular cognition brought about by the otherness of Celan’s poetry is tantamount to an experience of that which is incomparably present in its reading. To address it critically is to disregard that for which one wants this otherness to pass in the name of letting that pass which is bound to occur in it. “Philological cognition,” then, may also imply an attention to the necessary incomparability of the other, or an ethics of reading. As the “Meridian” says about the apostrophized “you,” “come about by dint of being named and addressed”: it “brings its otherness into the present . . . [In] this immediacy and proximity it gives voice to what is most its, the other’s, own: its time” (GW, III, 198-99 / CP, 50 [trans. modified]).

The traces making up Celan’s words remain to be addressed. In the engagement of this critical address, in the promise of this “toward,” his poetry may be given time and voice — its incomparable time, its incomparable voice.

New Haven, Connecticut
May 1, 1990

Pages ix–xxii.


1  Erinnerungen an Paul Celan (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1986), 84. The essay referred to was Gerhard Neumann, “Die ‘absolute’ Metapher. Ein Abgrenzungsversuch am Beispiel Stéphane Mallarmés und Paul Celans,” in Poetica (Amsterdam) 1-2, III (1970), 188-225.

2  GW, III, 108 / LP, 189. For readings, see Bernhard Böschenstein, “Hölderlin und Celan,” in Hölderlin-Jahrbuch XXIII (1982-83), 147-55; and Klaus Manger, “Die Königszäsur. Zu Hölderlins Gegenwart in Celans Gedicht,” in Hölderlin-Jahrbuch XXIII (1982-83), 156-65.

3  The first larger pieces of translation into English appeared within a year or so after Celan’s death. Yet despite this initial introduction, the sensitivity of which to verbal idiosyncracies remains impressive, it was not until the mid-eighties that Celan was translated more extensively into English. For references, see the Selected Bibliography.

4  At present, there is only one published secondary study of his poetry in English (Jerry Glenn’s slim volume, which appeared twenty years ago) and a collection of essays in which several of the contributions are in English (the procedings of a conference at the University of Washington, Seattle, edited by Amy D. Colin). See Paul Celan (New York: Twayne, 1973); and Argumentum e silentio (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 1987). Monographs by John Felstiner (on Celan and translation) and Joel Golb (on Celan and tradition) are currently underway, however, as is a collection of essays edited by Haskell M. Block. In addition, a study by Amy D. Colin on Celan and Surrealism is to be published shortly.

5  The special issue on “Translating Tradition: Paul Celan in France,” published a few years ago by Acts ( 8/9 [1988]), may serve as an indicative example.

6  See, e.g., Jerry Glenn, “Celan’s Transformation of Benn’s Südwort: An Interpretation of the Poem ‘Sprachgitter,’“ in German Life and Letters 1, XXI (1967), 11-17; James K. Lyon, “Paul Celan’s Language of Stone: The Geology of the Poetic Landscape,” in Colloquia Germanica 3-4, VIII (1974), 298-317; and the special Celan issue of Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 1, VIII (1983), edited by Lyon. For further references, see the Selected Bibliography.

7  See, e.g., John Felstiner, “Paul Celan in Translation: ‘Du sei wie du,’“ in Studies in Twentieth Century Literature, 91-100, “Kafka and the Golem: Translating Paul Celan,” in Prooftexts 2, VI (1986), 172-83, “Mother Tongue, Holy Tongue: On Translating and Not Translating Paul Celan,” in Comparative Literature 2, XXXVIII (1986), 113-36, and “‘Ziv, That Light’: Translation and Tradition in Paul Celan,” in New Literary History 3, XVIII (1987), 611-63; Rainer Nägele, “Paul Celan: Configurations of Freud,” in Reading After Freud: Essays on Goethe, Hölderlin, Habermas, Nietzsche, Brecht, Celan, and Freud (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 135-68; Elizabeth Petuchowski, “A New Approach to Paul Celan’s ‘Argumentum e silentio,’“ in Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 1, LII (1978), 111-36, and “Bilingual and Multilingual Wortspiele in the Poetry of Paul Celan,” in Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 4, LII (1978), 635-51; Howard Stern, “Verbal Mimesis: The Case of ‘Die Winzer,’“ in Studies in Twentieh-Century Literature 1, VIII (1983), 23-39; and Shira Wolosky, “Paul Celan’s Linguistic Mysticism,” in Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 2, X (1986), 191-211, and “Mystical Language and Mystical Silence in Paul Celan’s ‘Dein Hinübersein,’“ in Argumentum e silentio, 364-74. For further references, see the Selected Bibliography.

8  “Ein Briefwechsel mit Martin Heidegger,” in Emil Staiger, Die Kunst der Interpretation der Kunst. Studien zur deutschen Literaturgeschichte (Zürich: Atlantis, 1955), 48. Martin Heidegger, “An Exchange of Letters between Staiger and Heidegger,” trans. Beryl Lang and Christine Ebel, in PMLA 3, CV (1990), 426 (trans. modified).

9  “Über philologische Erkenntnis,” in Schriften, ed. Wolfgang Fietkau (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1978), vol. I, 276. “On Textual Understanding,” in Peter Szondi, On Textual Understanding and Other Essays, trans. Harvey Mendelsohn, Foreword by Michael Hays (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 14.

10  For a personal assessment of Celan and the imperative, see Esther Beatrice Cameron, “Paul Celan, Dichter des Imperativs. Ein Brief,” in Bulletin des Leo Baeck Instituts LIX (1981), 55-91.

11  Cf. Calvert Watkins, “What Is Philology?,” in Comparative Literature Studies, 1, XXVII (1990), 25.

12  Sämtliche Werke, Große Stuttgarter Ausgabe, ed. Friedrich Beissner (Stuttgart: Kolhammer, 1951), vol. II:1, 163.

13  Cf. Hans-Jost Frey, “Textrevision bei Hölderlin,” in Der unendliche Text (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1990), 104-05, to whom this discussion is indebted.

14  Sämtliche Werke, vol. II;1, 185. For a study in light of this topos in Hölderlin, see Rainer Nägele, Text, Geschichte und Subjektivität in Hölderlins Dichtung. “Uneßbarer Schrift gleich” (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1985).

15  “Vorrede,” Morgenröte, in Friedrich Nietzsche, Werke. ed. Karl Schlechta (Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Wien: Ullstein, 1981), vol. II, 16. “Preface,” in Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 3.

16  “Vorrede,” Zur Genealogie der Moral, in Werke, vol. III, 216. “Preface,” in Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1967), 23.

17  “Immer wieder neue Sintflut,” in Nelly Sachs, Suche nach Lebenden (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1971), 37. “New Flood Again and Again,” in Nelly Sachs, O The Chimneys, trans. Michael Hamburger (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1967), 265 (trans. modified).

18  GW, II, 24. In the Lynch-Jankowsky translation, the poem reads:

With the word trace, screw-
shaped, carved
twelve times
into its horn.

The last stab that it makes.

The ferry, poling
up through the
vertical, narrow

it carries across
the wound-read.) (65, 56 [trans. modified])


Preface     ix

Acknowledgments     xxiii

Abbreviations     xxv

“Give the Word”

Schibboleth: For Paul Celan

Jacques Derrida     3

Thought and Poetr

1. Mystical Elements in Heidegger’s Thought and Celan’s Poetry

Otto Pöggeler     75

2. Black Milk and Blue: Celan and Heidegger on Pain and Language

Dennis J. Schmidt      110

3. Catastrophe

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe     130

Figure and Time

4. The Realities at Stake in a Poem: Celan’s Bremen and Darmstadt Addresses

Christopher Fynsk     159

5. Reading Celan: The Allegory of “Hohles Lebensgehöft” and “Engführung”

Joel Golb     185

6. The Second of Inversion: Movements of a Figure through Celan’s Poetry

Werner Hamacher     219


Inscription and Materiality

7. Spectral Analysis: A Commentary on “Solve” and “Coagula”

Anders Olsson     267

8. Intertextuality in Celan’s Poetry: “Zwölf Jahre” and “Auf Reisen”

Hans-Jost Frey     280

9. Nothing: History and Materiality in Celan

Aris Fioretos     295

Pure Language and Silence

10. The Relation between Translation and Original as Text: The Example of Celan’s Version of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 137

Hans-Jost Frey     345

11. Er, or, Borrowing from Peter to Pay Paul: Further Notes on Celan’s Translation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 105

Thomas Pepper     353

12. Poetic Mutations of Silence: At the Nexus of Paul Celan and Osip Mandelstam

Leonard Olschner     369

Select Bibliography     387

Contributors     399

Index     401

Paul Celan, »Ausgewählte Gedichte« (2011), selected poems