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Paul Antschel - then Ancel, then Celan, an anagram adopted in 1947, when his first poems appeared in a Romanian periodical - was born into a Jewish family at Czernowitz in Bukovina, northern Romania, on 23 November 1920. He lost his mother and father overnight in a Nazi deportation, then spent nineteen months at forced labor, during which time his parents were killed in the camps. Among his various pursuits during difficult times were: Medical Student, Labor Camp Worker, Psychiatric Field Surgeon, and Translator.
After the war, a German-Speaking Jewish Exile in Paris, he married a French artist and had a son, taught at the Ecole Normale Superieure, translated forcefully from six languages, and wrote poetry that won him Germany's major literary prizes, ranking him with Hölderlin and Rilke.
But the trauma of the Holocaust stayed with him and severely afflicted him even as his creativity persisted. He took his own life in Paris by drowning in the Seine on 20 April 1970, at the age of 49.


Celan on Celan : "There's nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German."

" I have tried to write poetry in order to acquire a perspective of reality for myself."


POETRY is what gets lost in translation, Robert Frost once said, without explaining why it is that certain great poets get translated over and over again. With its fragmented words, multilingual puns and recondite allusions, the haunting verse of Paul Celan, arguably one of the greatest European poets of the postwar period, hovers on the edge of untranslatability; so writes M.M.Anderson of Columbia University.

Paul Celan wrote many haunting poems exploring the darker spiritual trials of life and interpersonal relationships. In his verse, he creates a unique compact style which fuses broken words and chopped syntax to produce a stark and mesmerizing musicality.

:: The InstaPLANET Cultural UNIVERSE presents yet another attempt, this one made by Ana Elsner, to bring the strangeness, dissonance and tension of Celan's original German writing into English. ::

CELAN himself made a Comment on 'The Effect of Auschwitz on Language' in his Bremen Prize acceptance speech:

''It, the language, remained, not lost, yes, in spite of everything. But it had to pass through its own answerlessness, pass through frightful muting, pass through the thousand darknesses of deathbringing speech. It passed through and gave back no words for that which happened; yet it passed through this happening. Passed through and could come to light again, 'enriched' by all this. ''

Photo Art by NARMI MICHEJDA, Warsaw, Poland

:: A Passage from the Poem 'Germanii' - "To Germany" ::

O, deva vsech rumjanee

Sredi zelenych gor --





Polkarty prikarmanila,

Astral'naja duöa!

Vstar' -- skazkami tumanila,

Dnes' -- tankamini posla.

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -

This is a video on Paul Celan's Todesfuge, recited in German

O most blushing maiden

Amidst green hills --





Engulfed half the map of the world,

Astral soul!

Once -- lulled us with tales,

Now -- comes at us with tanks.

Art Photo by NARMI Michejda, Warsaw - Poland

UNTITLED - from Die Gedichte aus dem Nachlass
Translation by Ana Elsner


Du suchst Zuflucht : / : beim unauflöslichen : / : Erb-stern -- sie wird dir : / : gewährt. Jetzt : / : überlebst du dein zweites : / : Leben


You seek Refuge : / : at the undisbandable : / : Heritage-star -- it is : / : granted. Now : / : you outlive your second : / : Life


'UNTITLED' from Die Gedichte aus dem Nachlass, published in 1997
Translated by Ana Elsner


Sieglos lebst du mit mir,

klein : / : und beladen.

Nur draußen, wo

unsre Seelen noch stehn, auf dem Unland, da

singts. Singt es : / : im Abglanz

dessen, der neben uns ging.

Ob Wolke, ob Stern: wir

sehen nicht auf.

Rück näher, komm:

daß es nicht zweimal wehe

durch unser : / : offenes Haus.

Bereft of Victory you live with me,

small : / : and burdened.

Only outside, where

our Souls remain, on the Void, there

does it sing. Sings : / : in Reflection

of him, who walked beside us.

Whether Cloud, or Star: we

don't lift up our Eyes.

Move closer, come:

so that it won't twicemore blow

through our : / : unsheltering House.

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